Texas voters to consider proposal on transportation funding

In the upcoming general election, Texas voters will be asked to approve or reject an amendment to the Texas Constitution to dedicate certain funds to transportation. The proposed amendment on the November 4 ballot would direct the comptroller to allocate to the State Highway Fund (Fund 6) one-half of the amount of general revenue derived from oil and natural gas production taxes that currently is transferred to the rainy day fund. If the amendment is approved, revenue transferred in this way could be used only for building, maintaining, and acquiring rights of way for public roadways other than toll roads.

The proposed amendment would take effect immediately upon approval by voters and apply to transfers the comptroller made after September 1, 2014. The ballot proposal reads: “The constitutional amendment providing for the use and dedication of certain money transferred to the state highway fund to assist in the completion of transportation construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation projects, not to include toll roads.”

Supporters of the proposed amendment say that, in combination with its enabling legislation, HB 1 by Pickett, it would take a key step toward securing critical funding for transportation projects in Texas without raising taxes, charging new fees, or using tolls. While far from a cure-all, they say, the proposed amendment would present a viable way to secure part of the funding Texas needs to keep roadway congestion at current levels, given population and economic growth. Supporters say protections provided for the rainy day fund in the enabling legislation, HB 1, would help to ensure it maintained a sufficient balance.

Opponents of the proposed amendment say it effectively would take money from one fiscal pocket and move it to another. They say that reducing the general revenue from oil and natural gas production taxes that flows into the rainy day fund could create problems in lean times. In the event of an emergency that demanded state spending during a fiscal crisis, the rainy day fund might be the only source of revenue available to lawmakers. A fall in oil and gas prices could signal a downturn in the current boom, opponents say, which would significantly affect the growth rate of the rainy day fund balance. They say the enabling legislation’s protections for the rainy day fund balance are inadequate and subject to legislative whims.

Report. Read more about the proposed constitutional amendment to dedicate funds to transportation in the House Research Organization’s focus report, Constitutional Amendment on November 2014 Ballot.

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