OOIDA ELECTION REPORT Texas voters put more money toward roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/6/2014

Voters throughout Texas this week made it clear that they support putting more money toward transportation work.

By a margin of 80 percent to 20 percent, Proposition 1 on the statewide ballot was approved. The question’s passage authorizes a state constitutional amendment to tap 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 $5 billion in transportation funding needs without increasing taxes or fees.

With voter approval secured, half of the oil and gas severance tax revenue soon will be sent to the state highway fund. Specifically, about $1.7 billion in severance tax money that now goes to the state’s Rainy Day Fund will be diverted for roads in the first year.

Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Lt. Gen. Joe Weber, USMC, Retired, said passage of Proposition 1 is a “good first step toward finding sustainable funding to meet Texas’ transportation needs.”

“The overwhelming support for this measure is a strong statement from the citizens of Texas that transportation is an essential priority,” Weber said in a news release.

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

A select committee of lawmakers will be created to set a “floor” before each legislative session. The House and Senate will 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.

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