Another week has come and gone at your State Capitol without the passing of a transportation funding bill. While both chambers have passed their own version of the legislation, no compromise has been made to settle the differences between the two. Gov. Perry has threatened to call a third special session if no agreement is reached before the session ends on July 30. Hopefully, this won’t be necessary.
An attempt to end transportation
In the past few regular legislative sessions, the Legislature has made a concerted effort to reduce so-called highway funding “diversions” — the use of transportation-related revenue to finance functions unrelated to roads. HB 16 would take a significant step toward recognizing that, as much as possible, revenue generated from vehicle-related taxes should be used to finance road construction and development. This bill, in conjunction with HJR 2, would dedicate an additional, much-needed funding stream for constructing and maintaining public roads. This would represent a sharp departure from relying on debt and toll roads as primary mechanisms for funding highways. The bill would also make use of expected increases in oil and gas severance tax remissions to offset any loss to the Available School Fund so that education funding is protected.
The diversion of 25 percent of motor fuels taxes to the Available School Fund is among the largest and longest-standing diversions of highway funds that has yet to be addressed. This legislation would appropriately dedicate this substantial amount to maintaining and developing public, non-tolled roads, a purpose directly related to the chief source of motor fuels taxes. Using taxpayer dollars for purposes as closely related as possible to the reason for their collection is both a matter of good practice and being honest and transparent in our budgeting.
The bottom line on these measures is that a diversion will be eliminated, education funding will be protected and the voters of our great state will have the opportunity to show that they want to take the first step in meeting our growing transportation needs.
Our state parks
Even though the summer has seemed eternal for legislators in Austin, there are only a few weeks left before school begins again. Along with making a trip to see your State Capitol, I want to encourage you to visit the variety of state parks that Texas has to offer before the summer ends. The beauty and majesty of our state are displayed nowhere better than in our more than 90 state parks. With this in mind, I continue to have constant dialogue with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director, Carter Smith, with whom I worked closely to secure additional funding for Fort Boggy State Park in Leon County. Director Smith and his executive team are planning a visit and a special event at Fort Boggy this Fall, and I look forward to welcoming them to our District. Additionally, plans for equestrian riding trials are underway at Mission Tejas State Park in Houston County. I will continue to work closely with Texas Parks and Wildlife to ensure that our state parks continue to thrive.
As always, my staff and I are available during the week at 936-634-2762 or 512-463-0508.