On Monday,Representative Diana Maldonado held a transportation forum with Representative Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), Chair of the Texas House Transportation Committee, and David Lewis, a Texas A&M professor.
Maldonado's guests repeatedly made the case for 'indexing' the gas tax, currently at $.20 per gallon, and bewailed the fact that more fuel-efficient vehicles mean less income for government. He made the usual comparisons of the amount of increase to a "latte " each month (thankfully it wasn't Happy Meals this time,) and lightly ridiculed politicians who made pledges to not raise taxes. While whining about the fact that vehicle registration fees decline as a vehicle ages, Representative Pickett said the system was "stupid," and complained that no-one had thanked him for the fee decrease on older cars.
No, seriously, he really said that.
Representative Maldonado did not say much at all. During the brief question and answer period, she attempted to answer a few questions, but Representative Pickett quickly jumped in to save the day.
The most articulate woman present turned out to be Williamson County Commissioner Lisa Birkman, who asked very knowledgeable questions about road construction funding for the county. Pickett tried to brush her off with his condescending comments about how "people just don't understand," and "you've got to know the terminology and acronyms," but finally had to concede that she was a 'smart person.' Commissioner Birkman demonstrated that she knew a lot more than the 'terminology,' and clearly understands how roads are funded, including the fact that the county is funding construction and maintenance of state highways to the tune of $300 million.
The Democrat's tax hike message didn't get much attention; there were only 20 people in the audience including Maldonado's staff and a few reporters. Maldonado and local Democrats have been trying very hard to make transportation a campaign issue, and although apparently unable to help Williamson County with the burden of state highway costs, she is still claiming residents should vote for her so that she can do something about road congestion. Apparently, the only plan is to increase gas taxes and registration fees.
As poll after poll indicates, voters are concerned about Obamacare, jobs, and the economy. Transportation is pretty far down the list. Representative Maldonado should be paying attention to the economic and jobs crisis, but since she was a no-show today for a candidate forum with Republican Larry Gonzales sponsored by Texas Prosperity Project regarding the Texas economy and job creation, she just really, really doesn't seem interested.