The Big Conversation
Lawmakers haven't ignored transportation this session, but big plans for infrastructure funding may have stalled.
With about six weeks left in the session, some lawmakers say the Legislature may fall short of finding the $4 billion per year that the Texas Department of Transportation has said it needs to keep congestion around the state from getting worse, as the Tribune's Aman Batheja reports today.
Though efforts that would create an infrastructure fund using $1.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and end $400 million in gas tax diversions could still pass, other ideas — like dedicating vehicle sales tax revenue to fund highway projects — appear to have lost momentum.
"I don’t think we’re quite there yet, and quite honestly I think it takes a session or so to quite understand that," state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said at a Tribune event last week.
Phillips said many of the proposals would be hard to sell to some House members, especially the chamber's freshman Republicans. The perception that the state is already awash in new transportation projects may have also drained the issue of urgency.
But legislators like state Sen. Robert Nichols, who filed the vehicle sales tax bill, say the state can't afford to wait.
"Can we take care of it next session? ... The answer is no, we can’t," said Nichols, R-Jacksonville, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. "We need to take care of it this session because you cannot just spin on a dime and do a transportation project."
Compiled from Tribune reports
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