Deadline for Transportation Funding Looms
As reported in last week’s Legislative Update, time is running out in the second special legislative session for lawmakers to address the state’s transportation funding problems. So far legislators can’t agree on the best way to do so. The Texas House of Representatives passed two bills, and the Senate one, that could help solve those problems.
2H.B. 16 (Pickett), as passed by the House, would: (1) enact a complex formula that would end the diversion of gas tax revenues that currently fund the available school fund; and (2) require that those funds be used mainly for transportation funding. The bill would take effect only if H.J.R. 2 is approved by the voters.
2H.J.R. 2 (Pickett), as passed by the House, would: (1) amend the Texas Constitution to provide that all of the state’s gas tax revenues would go to fund transportation (25 percent of the revenue currently goes towards school funding); and (2) provide for a diversion of revenue from the state's oil and gas tax revenues to make up the school funding portion. The result of the revenue swap in (2) would be that the Texas Department of Transportation would receive additional funding over the coming years, and that the state’s Rainy Day Fund would grow by a smaller amount each year.
The bills went to the Senate on July 19. The Senate passed H.J.R 2 that day, but did so only after substituting provisions similar to a Senate resolution, 2S.J.R. 1 (Nichols), that had already been voted out of the Senate. (The House never took action on it.) The Senate version would amend the Texas Constitution to allow the transfer of certain general revenue to the state highway fund, but only if the balance of the Rainy Day Fund remains at $6 billion or greater. This fund balance “floor” is one of the chief points of disagreement between the House and Senate.
On July 25, the Senate passed its version of 2H.B. 16. The Senate version would create a joint committee composed of four members of the senate appointed by the lieutenant governor and four members of the House appointed by the speaker. The committee would be tasked with studying the structure, funding, and use of the Rainy Day Fund.
The bills now go to a conference committee that will attempt to work out the differences and propose a compromise. If a compromise can be reached and the bills are finally passed, the legislation will then go to the voters for approval in November.
If transportation funding is a priority for your city, please contact your legislators to urge a vote in favor of H.B. 16 and H.J.R. 2.