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Road funding bill advances in Texas

State transportation leaders have said the Texas needs to spend $4 billion more per year to keep up with the state's rapidly growing population.

The Associated Press

7/8/2013

AUSTIN, Texas — A major transportation funding plan advanced in the Texas Senate last week as lawmakers looked to make quick work of those issues with major fights still to come over new abortion restrictions.

The transportation funding measure is a constitutional amendment that would divert nearly $1 billion per year from the state's cash reserve fund to spend on building and maintaining roads. The reserve fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, is filled with oil and gas severance taxes.

State transportation leaders have said the Texas needs to spend $4 billion more per year to keep up with the state's rapidly growing population. Supporters of the plan admit it won't cover the state's financial needs for roads but say it lays the foundation for a pay-as-you-go approach to building roads after years of amassing billions in long-term debt.

Critics warn it puts transportation at the front of the line for money and could leave lawmakers in a bind if they face another crisis in the future.

The Senate Finance Committee met for nine minutes before sending the plan to the full Senate with a unanimous vote.

"We just approved spending $1 billion in about 10 minutes," quipped Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.

If approved by the Legislature, the plan would go to voters statewide in November.

The Texas Department of Transportation manages nearly 200 million miles of roads and more than 50,000 bridges. The agency largely relies on a 20-cents-a-gallon fuel tax that hasn't been raised since 1991.

Lawmakers have struggled with transportation funding for years and have been reluctant to raises taxes or fees in a Legislature controlled by a Republican majority for a decade.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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