ELECTION 2014: Texas voters to decide on road funding

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/26/2014

The statewide ballot in Texas this November will include a proposed amendment to the state Constitution about transportation funding.

Proposition 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot will ask voters whether to authorize tapping the state’s oil and gas severance tax to boost revenue for non-toll roads and bridges.

The Texas Legislature voted one year ago to put the question on the state ballot to help address $4 billion in transportation funding needs without increasing taxes or fees.

If approved by voters, half of the oil and gas severance tax revenue would be sent to the state highway fund. Specifically, about $1.4 billion in severance tax money that now goes to the state’s Rainy Day Fund would be diverted for roads in the first year.

Texas Department of Transportation Chairman Ted Houghton referred to the passage of Proposition 1 as “one of the most important issues facing our state today.”

“We are all familiar with funding challenges facing transportation,” Houghton said in a news release. “That’s why it was so important that the Legislature passed the proposed constitutional amendment that if approved by the voters will dedicate new revenue to transportation.”

The amendment’s passage would allow the second part of the plan to kick in. Approved by state lawmakers during a 2013 special session on transportation funding, HB1 would prevent the Rainy Day Fund’s balance from falling too low.

A select committee of lawmakers would be created to set a “floor” before each legislative session. The House and Senate would then decide whether to agree to the minimum balance or change it.

At any time, if the Rainy Day Fund balance falls below the threshold, the diversions to transportation would stop.

Another component of the plan requires TxDOT to trim its current budget for non-road uses by $100 million and to use the savings to pay off debt.

The deadline to register to vote in the fall election in Texas is Oct. 6. Early voting begins on Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 31.

For more 2014 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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