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Water, Roads Among Top Contenders for Increased Funding This Session

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As we begin the legislative session, it is time to make sure that we have done everything possible to make sure that the legislature clearly understands the crisis facing our infrastructure. Both water and highway issues should be a top priority for everyone in Texas.

It is apparent that the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House all realize how important these issues are to the future growth of our state. Lt. Governor Dewhurst announced he would support using a part of the Rainy Day Fund to establish an infrastructure bank for water and roads. This would not be a diversion of the Rainy Day Fund but a proper utilization of some of those monies as an investment to be paid back in a revolving fund. Both Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Robert Nichols and House Transportation Committee Chair Larry Phillips have indicated they understand the crisis facing the Texas Department of Transportation. They are keenly aware that a long-term solution is needed and that bonds are quick fixes and can no longer sustain the amount needed to fund our highways adequately.

We expect Senator Nichols to introduce two bills: one that would convert the sales tax on automobiles to the Highway Fund over a ten year period and another that would cap the sales tax on automobiles at its current level and all additional revenue would go to the Texas Mobility Fund for leverage use by TxDOT. Chairman Phillips has indicated support for modifications of shifting the sales tax on automobiles to the Highway Fund with the understanding that it would be specifically used for highway construction and not for other purposes.

It was interesting that a number of the Tea Party delegation held a press conference at the Capitol and supported a $3 Billion increase in highway construction. The Tea Party in the past had been against the increase; however, they have recognized that increased mobility is an income generator for the state and that one of our basic freedoms is, and will always be, mobility.

The Legislative Drafting and Review Committee hit the ground running and has started reading legislation filed before the session has even began. It is going to be extremely important that the members’ input is given to the Legislative Drafting and Review Committee so that a sense of direction on each bill will be provided to the staff and to the members of the legislature. We expect all of our members to participate at some level in this legislative exchange; in return we are revamping the way we distribute information for unprecedented access to our advocacy and what our priorities are.

Chairman Lanham has scheduled a fly-in to Austin for February 12, which will feature meetings with each member of the legislature and a possible report from some of the leadership on what might be expected during the session.

Our area meetings continue to be the heart of the association’s activity and as we move through the legislative session we anticipate full reports at each area meeting on the status of legislation and particularly on the status of the funding of our water program and our highway program.

The Texas Transportation Commission continues to do an excellent job in pushing projects forward as fast as possible consistent with the flow of funds. In addition we expect the Texas Water Development Board to continue with their strong loan program.

Check our website and our advocacy partner’s website through Texas Infrastructure Now with news and updates on the session. Also make sure you are signed up for our electronic bulletins and notices. For a full run-down of all the ways we have for you to stay connected, contact the Chapter Office and they will get you set up. With your help, we are looking forward to a great session.

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