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Perry Expands Special Session Agenda to Include Transportation Funding

Gov. Rick Perry on Monday added transportation funding to the agenda of the special session. He said Texas' transportation network is facing added pressure because of the state's growing economy and population.

Gov. Rick Perry at the Capitol in May 2013.

Gov. Rick Perry on Monday added transportation funding to the agenda of the special session.

In his directive, Perry asked the Legislature to consider the “funding of transportation infrastructure projects” during the 30-day session, which began late last month.

“Texas’ growing economy and population demand that we take action to address the growing pressure on the transportation network across the state,” Perry said in a statement. “As we enjoy the benefits of a booming economy, we have to build and maintain the roads to ensure we sustain both our economic success and our quality of life.” 

Perry called lawmakers back in session to consider redistricting proposals, but transportation advocates had been pushing Perry to expand the agenda to include road funding.

“I’m excited about the opportunity that’s before us on this," Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said in a statement. "Transportation funding was the one bit of unfinished business coming out of the regular session that we really need to take care of.”

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, said he would work with Williams and Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville to find a funding solution that did not rely on additional revenue being raised.

"I commend Governor Perry for adding transportation to the special session so that the Legislature can identify a reliable revenue stream without raising taxes or fees to build and maintain new highways," Dewhurst said. "I look forward to working closely with Senators Williams and Nichols to provide a new highway solution at no additional cost to taxpayers to reduce urban congestion and maintain roadways in rural areas of the state." 

During the regular session, the Texas Department of Transportation got $400 million in additional money for the state highway fund, a paltry 5 percent of what the agency had said it needed just to maintain current road congestion.

Even before Perry added transportation to the call, lawmakers had been filing road funding bills with the hope that he would. For his part, Perry has been advocating for 100-year bonds to finance transportation infrastructure, arguing the state should take advantage of historically low interest rates. 

But a large contingent of Republicans remains adamantly opposed to TxDOT assuming any more debt. Some lawmakers want to tap the Rainy Day Fund for transportation funds, but conservatives have already objected to using the account for water projects and ending accounting tricks so it's unclear if that will re-emerge during the special session.

Aman Batheja contributed to this story.

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State government Transportation 83rd Legislative Session Governor's Office Rick Perry Texas Department Of Transportation Texas Legislature