AUSTIN — A diverse coalition of Texas business interests have proposed a five-point plan to solve the state’s transportation funding crisis.
TxDOT officials have said the agency needs an additional $4 billion per year, due primarily to an underperforming gas tax. The agency has also exhausted almost all of its bonding authority and, by 2015, there will be no money for new roads.
The proposed funding solution is based on three principles, including: (1) that money should go for its stated purpose; (2) long-term bond debt for recurring, predictable expenses is harmful to the state’s economy; and (3) the state must rebuild the funding for free-access, non-tolled projects.
The combined strategies contained in the plan address TxDOT’s funding shortfall by generating approximately $5.7 billion in the next biennium (FY 2014 –2015), with revenue anticipated to increase in subsequent years.
The plan begins by phasing out diversions from Fund 6, the state’s highway fund, over the next two budget cycles, totaling nearly $600 million per year.
The proposal also calls for a $50 increase to the state’s vehicle-registration fee and a $10 local option dedicated to local projects. The latter would require approval by county voters.
The plan continues with the dedication of future motor-vehicle sales tax revenues to the state highway fund. In 2011, the tax generated $2.8 billion. Using that as a baseline, the group proposes that, 50 percent of the revenue over that baseline would be dedicated to transportation infrastructure by Sept. 1, 2015, and 100 percent of the overage would be dedicated by FY 2017.
The group also calls for the creation of a State Infrastructure Bank dedicated to transportation and funded by a one-time cash infusion of $1.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund. This money would include $300 million for county road maintenance in shale-development areas, $400 million in loans to local transportation-building entities, and $1 billion for credit enhancements for local projects.
The final point of the five-point plan stipulates that all new revenue should be dedicated to free-access, non-tolled, pay-as-you-go projects.
“This group came together because we recognized the need for a comprehensive plan to address this critical infrastructure need,” said Shad Bogany, 2013 Chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. “I think I speak for all of our coalition partners when I say we’re happy to be a part of a possible solution.”
A reliable transportation network is key to the continued economic success of our state, but we’re at a critical point. If Texas is to remain an attractive place to do business, we must invest in our infrastructure now to ensure the efficient movement of people and goods across our state.
“From the time I was elected in 2006, transportation funding has been one of my highest priorities. I believe we must at least start the conversation about the need to find long-term, sustainable funding sources for our growing transportation needs and those sources should not rely on tolls and debt,” said Rep. Patricia Harless (R-Spring).
"The money we use to fund our transportation system is quickly dwindling. If we don't find a solution to provide more money for our transportation infrastructure, our roads will fall even further into disrepair. We have struggled for years with increasing debt and this is not fair to our hard-working, tax-paying constituents. A fiscally responsible solution that protects our taxpayers needs to come now. It is our duty to fund our roads and I am honored to be working hard for an agreeable resolution to this important issue," said Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving).
"It is critical the Legislature acts responsibly now to avoid the shortfalls in 2015 that will harm economic growth and further increase congestion," said Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo). "The credit card is maxed out and the bill is due."
Members of the transportation coalition that proposed the plan include The Texas Association of Realtors, The Texas Association of Business, The Texas Association of Builders, the Texas Motor Transportation Association, the Food and Fuel Association, Texas Oil and Gas Association, the Associated General Contractors, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Texas, The Texas Transportation Alliance, and the Association of Electric Companies of Texas.