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Chicken? Beef? Or only Salad?

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03PresidentMessageBeef. It’s what’s for dinner. The fire is hot and the table is set. Our choice of protein has been made, but we’re not done yet. Steak? Barbecue? Pot roast? Hamburger? Carne guisada? Oh so many options, all fabulous in their own right, yet each provide a distinctly different path to dining pleasure.

Are you hungry yet? In the highway industry, most of us have been hungry since about 2008: Hungry for a dependable, sustainable, and abundant method to fund the construction and maintenance of our Texas highway system. The traveling public and civic leaders are hungry too. The table is set, and yes, the fire is getting hot. The only problem is that 181 people get to vote on what’s for dinner. We tried this in my family, and the system very quickly changed from a democracy to a dictatorship.

Nevertheless, we have a system in Texas, and I’m not suggesting that we change it. We do, however, end up with a heavy reliance on the political leadership to bring a plan to the forefront and see it through from inception to reality, or shall we say, from the shopping list to the dinner table.

So, what’s for dinner? Beef sounds good. We could go a step further and suggest prime beef, and that means steak. Here we go again. A whole new set of options emerges. Rib-eye, New York strip, filet mignon, and sirloin are a few that come to mind. The bar has been set high on funding in large part due to the success of our “Cost of Doing Nothing” campaign, and there are many options out there that could rise to the level of “prime.” Increasing vehicle registration fees, dedicating vehicle sales tax, tapping the rainy day fund, eliminating diversions, and—dare I even mention it—increasing the fuel tax. All of these options have been mentioned, and some have already entered the process as filed bills. Some combination of the aforementioned items could go a long way toward satisfying the funding level and the sustainability that we are all anticipating.

And, who knows, there may be some new innovative idea out there that has yet to emerge. I bet that many of you can remember a time when you had never even heard of fajitas. Now they are an integral part of Texas cuisine. I know I try to eat them at least a couple of times a week.

You might say to yourself, “So, Joe, what’s next? Grocery store?” Well, if you’re still thinking about food that would be a good move. Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Legislative Fly-in,” which was kind of like a trip to the grocery store. I had a list. I didn’t know where anything was. There were people everywhere. There were a few differences, though. I didn’t buy anything. I didn’t have to lug a bunch of bags out to the truck. And there are no metal detectors at HEB. No cocktail hour either.

The “Legislative Fly-in” was a huge success. More than a hundred AGC members and staff loaded up two buses and drove down to the Capitol building to visit with legislators and their staff, to ensure that our message about the need for transportation and water infrastructure funding was heard loud and clear. The message was conveyed and was very well received. I was able to visit two senators and eight representatives from the South Texas area and also had the opportunity to visit with Speaker of the House Joe Straus and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst during the trip. The whole experience was enlightening and there should be more opportunities like this in the near future.

I would personally like to thank all of the lawmakers and their staff, as well as the staff of AGC of Texas and Texas Good Roads, for their hard work, dedication to the cause, and for making the whole event a huge success. Thanks to you all.

Hopefully, by the time this magazine hits the newsstand, there will be further developments and progress on the issue, and we can all be looking forward to a better and long term outlook and an even more vibrant construction industry and transportation system, of which both are so important to our Texas economy.

Now, let’s eat.

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