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Third Special Session the Charm for Transportation

By Rick Thompson
TAC Legislative Staff

The Texas Legislature passed road funding legislation during the third called special session that increases funding for the state highway fund. Contingent upon voter approval in November next year, HB 1 and SJR 1 will increase transportation spending by about $1.7 billion for the 2015-2016 biennium.

HB 1 by Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) creates a select committee appointed by the speaker of the house and the lieutenant governor to make a determination for a minimum amount to remain in the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, each biennium. The amount recommended will require a majority vote of both chambers. The bill also directs the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to identify at least $100 million in savings, including savings in administration, for the purpose of paying down TxDOT’s debt. Additionally, the bill also authorizes the Transportation Commission to use money from the Texas Mobility Fund for certain port security and port transportation projects. HB 1 serves as the enabling legislation for SJR 1  and will be effective upon voter approval of the resolution in November 2014.

SJR 1 by Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) proposes a constitutional amendment that requires the comptroller to redirect half of the oil and natural gas production tax revenue from the Rainy Day Fund to the state highway fund. The Rainy Day Fund revenue to be transferred into the state highway fund may only be used for constructing, maintaining and acquiring rights-of-way for public roadways other than toll roads. The resolution also directs the legislature to provide a procedure for adjusting the amounts transferred to each fund. Because this is a constitutional amendment, it must be approved by a majority of Texas voters in November 2014.