ELECTION 2014: Texas state, local ballots include road funding questions

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/22/2014

Voters throughout Texas and specifically in the Austin area will cast ballots next month on efforts to raise money for transportation work.

The statewide ballot 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.

Advocates say passage of the ballot question would 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.

In Austin, voters will decide whether the city should spend $1 billion to improve roads and rail. Specifically, Proposition 1 on the local ballot would authorize selling bonds to pay for roads and rail work.

If approved, the city council would spend $400 million on road work, including upgrades along Interstate 35. The remaining $600 million would be set aside for a nine-mile rail line through the center of the city. However, the project is dependent on the city receiving matching federal funds.

Supporters say passage would help alleviate traffic congestion in the area and also provide another transportation option for moving around the city.

Opponents say the proposition would end up costing residents hundreds of dollars in property taxes. They have also voiced concern that the project would reduce vehicle lanes available and fewer parking spaces in the city’s core.

In neighboring Pflugerville, voters will also decide whether to use bonds to get road work done. Proposition 1 on the city’s ballot would authorize $28 million in tax bonds to be used for street improvements.

Projects that would benefit include $8.3 million for widening a portion of Heatherwilde Boulevard, $4.4 million for improvements on Pflugerville Parkway, and $3.7 million for Weiss Lane.

Early voting began on Monday, Oct. 20, and ends Oct. 31.

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

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