It took eight months and three special sessions, but Texas legislators finally placed a Band-Aid on the state’s transportation woes. The 3rd called special session ended at about 9:45 p.m. on Monday, August 5, 2013. The final strike of the gavel was met with applause and relief as legislators can now get back to daily life two months later than anticipated. However, the bigger sigh of relief came from Texas transportation advocates, desperately seeking at least a short-term solution to traffic issues.
Let’s be clear, the Legislature did not pass or even propose a panacea for long-term traffic congestion relief, but we are headed in a better direction based on the passage of HB 1 and SJR 1. The passage of the House Bill provides some temporary relief for addressing the state’s crumbling infrastructure and most pressing transportation needs, while the passage of the Senate Joint Resolution will put forth a future funding plan to the voters on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.
The House Bill measure calls for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to slash $100 million in administrative costs, and it sets up a 10-member oversight committee (five House Appropriations Committee members and five Senate Finance Committee members) to monitor how much money is drawn the from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for transportation funding assuming SJR 1 is passed.
SJR 1 – if passed by the voters – will allow the state to transfer some oil and gas production tax revenue currently dedicated to the Rainy Day Fund to road construction and maintenance. It’s estimated that these transfers could bring in $1.2 billion into TxDOT’s coffers, roughly one quarter of what TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson has stated is necessary to just maintain the state’s current transportation infrastructure.
The two biggest infrastructure issues facing our state remain transportation and water resources. The 83rd session addressed these issues, but it’s only the beginning of long-term solutions to these pressing problems.