Creating Tomorrow Today

Written by  BILL HALE, CHIEF ENGINEER, TXDOT

IN JANUARY, THE 87TH LEGISLATURE began, just as it has since 1846. Only this year, besides the normal duties of making a two-year budget and laws that affect Texans and transportation, members are doing so under the shadow of COVID-19.

The Capitol - the people’s building - reopened on Jan. 4. Under normal circumstances, that granite building accommodates thousands of people who walk its halls during session to see their government at work. But these aren’t normal times. Those who visited the building were required to wear a face mask, contend with visitor capacity limits and abide by the mandate of social distancing.

And because TxDOT is a state agency, we too will be managing these new norms, always working to keep our employees safe. Much of our work during session involves testifying before committee meetings and hearings, talking one-one-one with members and answering questions from legislators and their staffers.

Current changes aside, there are some constants, like the filing of our legislative appropriations request (LAR). The LAR is our official ask for funding.

For the 2022-23 biennium, we’ve requested $30.57 billion in funding. Those dollars will help us maintain and add to our existing system, develop new projects and pay for projects that are already underway. Of course, that work requires peoplepower. That’s why we’re also requesting an additional 281 personnel to help in our maintenance and engineering operations, information technology efforts and other areas.

It’s well documented that COVID-19 and subsequent shelter-in-place orders impacted state revenues and Texas’ overall economy. In January, we found out how much the pandemic has changed the economic picture for Texas when Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced the Biennial Revenue Estimate that projected the state will have $112.5 billion in revenue available during fiscal years 2022-2023. That estimate, according to Comptroller Hegar is down slightly from the amount of general-revenue spending funds that were available to budget writers last session.

But the current revenue estimate, according to the Comptroller, doesn’t paint the full picture. The pandemic continues to affect customers and businesses. For TxDOT, that uncertainty puts a financial cloud over major contributors to TxDOT’s budget. In 2020 and 2021, we saw some decreases in revenue sources that TxDOT depends on, namely motor fuels, vehicle registrations, oil and gas production and motor vehicle sales. As the pandemic continues, so does the uncertainty of what those revenue streams will bring to Texas. And that may translate into TxDOT making some adjustments to our upcoming budgets, which we can do. But what we won’t do is sacrifice safety or production. We will still build projects and support other modes of transportation.

It’s our responsibility. It’s the job we’ve been given and we’ll continue to connect Texans with what matters most to them. And we know - pandemic or not - that we can count on our partners, including the members of AGC, to help us do that.



MediaEDGE Logo sml