“Texas Infrastructure Now” Campaign in Full Swing

Written by  Karen Rove, President, Infrastructure Solutions, Inc.

The Texas Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment during the 3rd called Special Session that will be submitted to the voters for approval this November. The amendment calls for an estimated $1.4 billion a year of the oil and gas severance tax to flow into the State Highway Fund after the Rainy Day Fund is adequately funded. This amendment will be the first new monies flowing into the highway fund without new taxes and without new debt. It’s up to us to make sure the voters are aware of the importance of this amendment.

The first order of business was to conduct a statewide poll to test the ballot measure with the voters. When those polled simply read the ballot language without any information, 63 percent supported the measure. The highest support came from Democrats, Blacks, Hispanics, women and people who spend more than an hour a day in their cars. We then tested several different messages to gauge voter responses. In order of significance, it was: job creation, safety improvements, and providing additional monies without adding new taxes or debt.

We then tested what “moves the needle.” In other words, what voters rely upon in making up their minds about constitutional amendments. The results were, in order: recommendation of friend/colleague, support from civic club or trade association, and support from legislator/elected official. The TIN Campaign used this data to draft its campaign plan. We have launched an aggressive social media campaign to broaden appeal throughout Texas. TIN has an active Facebook Page (20,000 likes and counting), a website and a Twitter account. Web ads are targeted on Facebook and Google to expand the campaign’s reach. We are on our way to building an army of citizen transportation advocates who will be helpful in our Getting Out the Vote campaign for the amendment. The effort also will be mobilized to garner public support during the next legislative session to support additional transportation initiatives.

"AGC of Texas has committed $700,000 to buying drive-time radio. This allows us to reach voters in their car during their increasingly congested commute."

A grassroots strategy is underway in which resolutions of support and consent forms are being distributed across the state. Chambers of Commerce, civic clubs, and trade associations are all being approached to pass these resolutions and, in turn, help inform their members about the amendment. Senators Nichols and Whitmire and Representatives Phillips and Pickett have mailed a letter to every mayor and county judge in the state asking for their support. As this information is gathered, we will continue to educate and inform these entities and use them to help get out the vote.

Knowing that elected officials’ support plays a vital role in swaying constituents, these same members mailed a letter to every member of the Texas Legislature. Currently, around seventy House and Senate members have already joined the Texas Infrastructure Now Legislative Team. These officials will be asked to participate in local events, write op-ed pieces for the local newspaper and email blast their constituents support for the Amendment.

A strong grassroots campaign is key not only to the success at the ballot box, but also in building a large victory that sends a strong signal to the Legislature that Texans support additional funding for transportation. It’s important to remember this amendment only addresses approximately $1.4 billion of the $5 billion per year needed to address our immediate transportation needs. Next legislative session will bring a new Senate Finance Chairman, a new House Appropriations Chairman and several new members in each legislative body. A strong winning margin sets us up for future success for additional monies.

This campaign will not just be about social media and grassroots organization. A strong paid media plan will support these endeavors. AGC of Texas has committed $700,000 to buying drive-time radio. This allows us to reach voters in their car during their increasingly congested commute. The four major media markets—Houston, Dallas/ Ft. Worth, Austin and San Antonio—will have two weeks of paid drive-time radio.

In addition, we have purchased billboards along crowded interstates in Houston, Dallas and Austin. The Houston billboards have already been secured for eight weeks, with a changing message after the initial four weeks.

Within our coalition, we are working with several transportation-minded groups. We anticipate several will help our paid media endeavor, allowing more billboards to be bought and more radio ads to be aired. It will also help us cover print advertising in the second-tier market newspapers.

Texas Infrastructure Now was set up to support increased funding for infrastructure. This constitutional amendment happens to be the only current option for additional funding. Its passage is crucial to our industry and the economy of Texas. Stay tuned for more details on the campaign and how you can get involved. For now, make sure you: Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter

Call Karen Rove at 512-751-8113 or Jennifer Newton at 512-478-4691 to request a packet of information on the campaign and find out how you can get involved locally.

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