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August 1, 2013

Texas Senate passes bill raising transportation funding

By CLINT FOSTER

AUSTIN – In a third called special session of congress, the Texas State Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 1 and Senate Bill 1 on Tuesday.

The legislative package will increase transportation funding and ensure balance in the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, or Rainy Day Fund, as most know it.

Republican Sen. Craig Estes – who represents all or part of 14 counties in District 30 of North Texas, including Palo Pinto – voted in favor of the resolution and its companion bill.

“This is a commonsense conservative approach,” Estes said. “It increases transportation funding to ease traffic congestion without a tax increase or adding to our debt.”

Senate Joint Resolution 1 avoids raising taxes by allocating 50 percent of oil and gas severance tax revenues – previously put in the Rainy Day Fund – to the State Highway Fund for the construction and maintenance of roads. This is estimated to increase transportation funding by $878 million in the 2015 fiscal year and still leave a balance of more than $7 billion in the Rainy Day Fund.

SJR 1 also states these transfers to the State Highway Fund cannot be used to finance toll roads or to pay for transportation-related debt.

Senate Bill 1 will require a safe balance be set for the Rainy Day Fund.

Until the designated balance has been reached, allocating oil and gas severance tax revenue to the State Highway Fund will be prohibited.

In addition, SB 1 creates joint select committees on transportation funding, expenditures and finance. These committees – composed of nine members each from both the House and Senate – will study existing transportation funding sources, funding alternatives, needs and appropriations issues. They will also research new opportunities for efficiency and reexamine the Rainy Day Fund.

“It is absolutely critical to the future of Texas that we find additional funds for transportation,” Estes said. “Over the last decade our great state has experienced tremendous population and economic growth, and our infrastructure needs to keep pace in order for the next 10 years to be as prosperous as the last 10.”

Follow Clint on Twitter @Clint_Foster55

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