Kill it or Keep it? Mayoral candidates differ on Rebuild Houston Tax

- For five years Houstonians have been digging deeper in their pockets each month to pay a controversial drainage fee.

In the mayoral run-off, one candidate wants to keep the tax while the other wants it abolished.

"I can't imagine voters of Houston supporting someone who wants to unwind Rebuild Houston," said Mayor Annise Parker.

Parker is talking about the drainage fee the City has been collecting since 2011 to fund construction of new streets and infrastructure.
It is a tax candidate Sylvester Turner believes residents should continue to pay.

"I am committed that we should follow through on the pay-as-you-go model that has been put in place. We simply can't go back to the way we used to do it. The infrastructure was not able to keep up with the growth and development of this city. We need to maintain it as a dedicated source for dedicated purposes, so I am committed to that," said Turner.

Turner's opponent Bill King believes Rebuild Houston and the tax that came with it represent an on-going boondoggle that ought to be shut-down and replaced.

"This program has been a miserable failure. If you look at ten years ago we were reconstructing 375 lane miles a year. Last year we reconstructed 105 lane miles. That's why your streets are in such terrible shape," said King.

King says the drainage fee hits low income Houstonians the hardest and can't be deducted on federal income tax returns.

He proposes funding street and drainage projects by issuing bonds, the interest on which, would be paid by property tax.

"I don't think pay-as-you-go works. No city in the country uses it for the reason that it is a lot more expensive than borrowing the money and finishing the projects early," contends King.

Turner says King's plan simply replaces the drainage fee with property taxes, the rate of which would very likely have to go up to pay interest and principal on the bonds.

"You are issuing another $1 billion in debt to pay for the infrastructure. You cannot do that without increasing the financial risk of this City," warns Turner.

King told Fox 26 he believes interest on infrastructure bonds could be paid without raising property taxes.

Turner argues that it makes no sense for a city buried in debt to add more.

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