Texas law creates oversight panel for transportation revenue

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/27/2015

A new law in Texas addresses concerns about how business is done at the state Department of Transportation. The agency has said the state needs an additional $5 billion annually to maintain existing roads and bridges.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that sets up an advisory committee made up of state lawmakers to oversee projects. The panel will look at financing, performance and the agency’s work with government officials and organizations.

Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, said the new law “ensures there is necessary oversight and transparency regarding the use of the new funds provided for transportation.”

“I filed HB20 to provide a framework to ensure transportation dollars are administered in an objective, transparent manner with accountability for every dollar spent,” Simmons said during House floor discussion. “Our intention is not to provide TxDOT with a $5 billion blank check.”

Texas lawmakers this spring endorsed a proposed amendment to the state constitution to dedicate a portion of general sales tax revenue, about $2.5 billion annually, to the State Highway Fund. SJR5 gives voters the final say this November.

In November 2014, 80 percent of voters approved a state constitutional amendment to divert $1.7 billion annually in oil and gas production tax money for roads. The money previously went solely to the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Existing law puts the five-member Texas Transportation Commission in charge of deciding how and which transportation projects get built.

HB20 requires TxDOT to provide information to the public about transportation funding decisions.

Simmons said the new law addresses concerns about how projects are chosen by requiring the Transportation Commission to implement “an objective and transparent system to score projects seeking state funding.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas, click here.

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