Texas lawmakers are playing beat the clock in an effort to address transportation funding needs before time expires on the second special session of the summer.
House and Senate negotiators met Thursday, July 26, to start crafting a compromise that would make more money available for roads and bridges. The session must wrap up by Tuesday, July 30.
Senate lawmakers are holding firm to their proposal to ask voters to authorize tapping the state’s oil and gas severance tax to boost revenue. Specifically, they want to divert to transportation about $900 million in severance tax money that is earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund.
The redirection would be cutoff if the state’s emergency fund dips below $6 billion.
On the House side, lawmakers favor routing about the same amount of money to transportation by undoing a requirement that one-fourth, or 5 cents, of the revenue from collection of the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon fuel tax be used for schools. Instead, voters would decide whether to keep the estimated $900 million annually for transportation uses.
Education wouldn’t lose out on the money. It would be replaced with funds from the Rainy Day Fund.
House lawmakers oppose putting in a floor for the emergency fund.
Neither plan would meet the $4 billion more per year that Texas Department of Transportation officials say is needed to maintain existing roads.
The Senate is scheduled to work on a compromise Friday but House lawmakers won’t return until Monday.
Gov. Rick Perry’s office has indicated that a third special session to address transportation funding is likely if lawmakers don’t reach agreement before Tuesday’s deadline.
Any agreement would be included on the fall ballot for voters to make the final decision.
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