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North Texans Try to Save Local Transport Tax

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert leads rally at capitol to save the local options transportation plan.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert leads rally at capitol to save the local options transportation plan.

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Austin, TX – Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and North Texas officials staged a rally at the state capitol today as they tried to save the top legislative priority for the region.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley called on lawmakers and citizens to apply pressure in the Texas House, where North Texas' top legislative priority is on life support.

Whitley: This is not a tax bill. This is a local option. This is a local option giving the voters the opportunity to solve the problems of congestion.

The bill measure would allow local voters to increase their own gas tax or fees. The money raised would be used to build local roads or rail lines.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert was surrounded more than a dozen North Texas officials, Jim Oberwetter of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce and hundreds of others as he emceed the rally.

Leppert: We believe it is absolutely important we make the infrastructure investments that ensure we have a strong economy into the future.

Several times during the session Senate Transportation Chair John Carona of Dallas has revived the measure when anti- tax opponents and his own Republican party attempted to kill it. Bill opponent Peggy Venable is president of Americans for Prosperity.

Venable: We think true local option means taxpayers would have the right to vote to lower taxes not just tax spenders have the right to put new taxes on the ballot.

Carona has attached the measure to the session's big transportation reform bill, which he says he's willing to sacrifice for this local option.

Carona: I will absolutely let the bill go down. A tax and fee initiative with local voter control is essential in this state at this time.