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Highway Funding Proposals Numerous and Varied, but all Positive as We Head into the 83rd

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Underfunding highways is not a static problem. The longer it is disregarded, the worse the problem becomes. Without adequate resources, the Texas Department of Transportation will continue to face challenges in constructing and maintaining Texas' highway infrastructure and these challenges will worsen moment by moment. Our current funding sources are incapable of keeping pace with our needs. A new funding source must be identified. This affects our industry and others, obviously, and word is spreading that this underfunding actually hurts Texas. Despite the almost unanimous consensus that infrastructure funding needs new revenue sources, we have a very real challenge ahead. We know there is a significant funding challenge with regards to school financing and Medicaid, and those must be addressed for the sake of the state and its residents. But transportation must also be addressed. A solid, consistent, and predictable revenue stream must support transportation investment which is essential in providing the mobility, safety, and economic opportunity that makes Texas a world leader.

Fortunately, our state leaders have begun beating the drum months ago for increased highway funding. Governor Perry has called for an end to Fund 6 diversions as part of his Texas Budget Compact, which aims to increase budgeting transparency, among other things.

Even before this, our grassroots efforts were gaining momentum statewide. Using the prodigious knowledge of our members, AGC staff were able to create several documents for distribution at local meetings, on our websites, social media sites, and at Good Roads’ press events. This was an integral tool to help our legislators garner enough support at home so they can support transportation funding increases.

A significant difference between this year and other years preceding a legislative session has been the overwhelming interest we have received from other organizations with the same goal: to increase funding for our state’s highways. From the Texas Association of Business to the Texas Realtors’ Association, there is widespread consensus amongst the business community that if highway funding suffers, everybody suffers. There are several funding ideas being floated about right now. Members, this is great news for us. Our state leaders are negotiating ideas in the public sphere, looking for support, and seeing a huge return. It is in sharp contrast to where we were last session, with several funding ideas dying on the vine.

In addition to Perry’s call to “pledge” an end to Fund 6 diversions, we have also seen several ideas—in the news and in our Public Affairs meetings—which would translate to a great deal of funding. Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton has called for a portion of the state Rainy Day Fund to pay for the degradation of our roads due to the increased traffic around the Eagle Ford shale formation and others. Senator Tommy Williams has raised the idea of raising the vehicle registration fees. Senator Robert Nichols is an early proponent of an incremental dedication of existing vehicle sales taxes to Fund 6, over the course of the next decade. And, as is typical in recent sessions, we will likely see more “local option” legislation to allow cities and counties to finance specific projects in their region. Regardless of which option garners the most support, it is up to this membership to show that there is indeed enough support for the legislators to put their names to it. To speak bluntly, we need to deluge our elected leaders with our branding and our messaging. Our presence needs to be louder than our opponents’.

We have several means to get the word out, and I implore you to perform one or more of the following: Send letters using the Legislative Action Center via the AGC’s website or Texas Infrastructure Now; sign up for Texas Infrastructure Now social media accounts, as well as their newsletters; contact your legislators and hand deliver our “Cost of Doing Nothing” documents; and make plans to attend a “fly-in” in January.

In order for the legislature to be determined, so must you all. The AGC of Texas has done a great job in the interim with its “Cost of Doing Nothing” brand, but now is the time to strongly voice your support for measures to increase transportation funding. The legislature won’t increase funding unless there is local support. I look forward to working with this association and seeing your influence at the Capitol next session.

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