Politics
5:31 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Texas Lawmakers Speed Up on Transportation Funding Measure

Soon as members of the Texas Senate gaveled in this afternoon, they received a message of encouragement from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. 

"Good job conference committee, and good job Texas Senators. Good job," he said.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst praised the work accomplished by a conference committee of Senators and Representatives between yesterday afternoon and today on House Joint Resolution 2. It would divert more than $800 million in oil and gas tax revenues from the state's Rainy Day Fund to the highway fund. 

"What's been agreed on in principle...is that you would have a mechanism whereby the money flowing into transportation, into Fund 6 from the [Economic Stabilization Fund], could get turned off in the event that the Legislature or whoever they designate for it...would be able to say 'OK, we need this money to be in the Rainy Day Fund or ESF.' It would be a way to control that," State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said.

Sen. Williams also said there might be a dollar amount that the fund would need to have before money could go to transportation, but he was reluctant to confirm since details are still being hammered out by the committee.

The Texas Department of Transportation has said it needs $4 billion in additional revenue each year to deal with current congestion on the state's roadways. Supporters and critics alike have called HJR 2 a fix, but not a solution to the transportation shortfall.

The money, however, would not get diverted without voter consent. Lawmakers have also agreed that voters would not have a say until November 2014. Previously they planned to put it on the 2013 ballot. 

"I think there's a lot of people concerned having both on the same ballot," State Sen. Craig Eltife, R-Tyler, said about putting a constitutional proposition to fund water infrastructure and transportation on the same ballot. 

Both chambers come back at 2 p.m. Monday to vote on the final version of the bill.