Texas House speaker calls for end to state highway fund diversions

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, June 06, 2014

A leading Texas state lawmaker announced plans to put a stop to 80 years of raiding transportation funds for other uses.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said that the Texas House would propose a budget next year that uses all of the money allotted to the state highway fund for transportation.

The fuel tax and other fees, such as drivers’ license fees, are routed to the highway fund. But Straus pointed out that for almost 80 years some of that money has instead gone to help fund agencies that are not directly related to transportation, such as state troopers.

He said that devoting state highway funds for transportation would increase money for roads by about $1.3 billion over two years.

“This approach will make the state budget even more straightforward, just as taxpayers expect,” Straus said in a news release. “It will also provide needed transportation revenue – without a tax increase – as Texas continues to grow twice as fast as the rest of the country.”

Straus said the state’s growing economy will allow the Legislature to fund the Department of Public Safety and other agencies that would be affected by the change.

In recent legislative sessions, new money for transportation has been a hard sell at the statehouse. A year ago, lawmakers settled on a plan that would ask voters whether to reroute money from the state’s rainy day fund to roads.

If approved by voters this November, about $1.4 billion in oil and gas severance tax revenue would instead be sent to the state highway fund for non-toll roads and bridges.

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