A recurring theme heard at the past few Management Conferences, Administrative Conferences, and Public Affairs Meetings was the need for this industry to be seen, and be very vocal this legislative session. While the Comptroller announced more revenue than she had previously anticipated, every special interest group in Texas was clambering for it. The legislators leading the charge for increased water and highway funding needed constituents around the state to let their legislators know what effect the underfunding had on their districts and their communities.
On February 12, AGC of Texas members headed en masse to the State Capitol to speak with legislators about the state’s mounting need for highway and water funding. Members were briefed in the morning on key points and listened to two excellent speeches by Speaker Joe Straus and TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson. Buses transported members from the Four Seasons to the State Capitol to meet with legislators and their staff. The evening concluded with a cocktail reception at the Austin Club with AGC members, legislators, and staff.
At The Capitol, each member was given information packets containing The Cost of Doing Nothing book, which tracks revenue going into and out of the Highway Fund. If legislators had questions about where we stand in terms of our highway needs, they could see it for themselves in the book. An additional book was created featuring articles over the past year showing Texas communities’ responses to infrastructure needs. Finally, a folder was included in the packets with The Cost of Doing Nothing flyers and four page brochures, maps, and a legislative office directory, as well as key points when speaking on highway and water funding.
The Fly-In event was a resounding success, and positive feedback was received from legislators and their staff. We expect this to become a biennial tradition, building on the success from 2013.
Several bills filed at the time of the Fly-In were highlighted as priorities by our members.
HB 4, By Ritter, Allan (R): Relating to the creation and funding of the state water implementation fund for Texas to assist the Texas Water Development Board in the funding of certain water-related projects. AGC of Texas provided invited testimony on this legislation, which would create a dedicated account to provide funding for projects listed in the state water plan. With uncertainties clouding the future of Texas’ water supply, many legislators are motivated to fund the badly-needed water projects assessed by the Texas Water Development Board. The recently passed Proposition 2 water bonds are not sufficient to cover the costs needed to keep up with Texas’ growing demand.
HB 11, By Ritter, Allan (R): Relating to the appropriation of money from the economic stabilization fund to finance certain water-related projects.
This bill, working in concert with HB 4, would also provide much-needed water infrastructure funding to the state by using revenue from the “Rainy Day Fund,” more properly known as the “Economic Stabilization Fund.” And, just like HB 4, is a priority bill for M-U members.
SJR 20, By Nichols, Robert (R): Proposing a constitutional amendment dedicating certain revenue derived from the tax imposed on the sale of motor vehicles to the state highway fund. Companions: HJR 68 Phillips, Larry (Identical)
This legislation would send a constitutional amendment to Texas voters to dedicate, gradually over the course of ten years, all revenue from motor vehicle sales taxes into the state highway fund.
SB 287, By Nichols, Robert (R) Relating to the allocation of certain motor vehicle sales tax revenue to the state highway fund and to the uses of that revenue. Companions: HB 782, Phillips, Larry (Identical)
Infrastructure ran a feature from Chairman Nichols regarding this bill, which was filed last session but did not pass. The bill provides enabling legislation for the constitutional amendment (SJR 20) should it pass.
In addition to those listed above, several bills intent on reducing or removing the amount of diversions from the Highway Fund have also been filed. The initiative has been a priority for Governor Perry since the beginning of session.
If you would like to learn more about The Chapter’s role in transportation funding initiatives, or how you can get involved, please call AGC of Texas at 512.478.4691.