Sen. Nichols on the Importance of Prop 7

 

October 21, 2015

 

Senator Robert Nichols, chairman of the Texas Senate Transportation Committee, is the primary author and champion of the Highway Funding Amendment now before Texas voters.  Here are his thoughts in a recent editorial page piece:


On Nov. 3, Texans will have the opportunity to make a critical investment in our state’s economic future and the safety of the traveling public by supporting Proposition 7. This measure will provide much needed funding for our aging and congested transportation system.


The average Texan spends nearly 50 hours each year idling in traffic, costing more than $1,000 in lost productivity and wasted fuel. With more than 1,000 new people making Texas their home every day, commutes are expected to grow longer.


Fortunately, Texans will have an opportunity to reclaim some of that lost time and money by supporting Proposition 7 on the ballot during the upcoming Nov. 3 election.


Proposition 7 would invest $2.5 billion per year to build non-tolled roads and bridges in Texas. By 2025, that amount is expected to grow to $3.5 billion per year. The measure would constitutionally dedicate a portion of the existing state sales taxes — including taxes paid on new vehicles — to transportation, meaning no new taxes would be created. If passed by voters, this legislation will be the largest single increase in transportation funding in Texas history, without issuing debt.


Funding transportation is a core function of state government. Not only do our highways, roads and bridges connect us as a state, they also serve as ribbons of economic activity. A well-maintained transportation system helps businesses to deliver their goods to market, gets Texans to work on time and keeps kids safe on their commute to and from school.


Texas has traditionally relied on a federal gas tax, a state gas tax and state vehicle registration fees to fund transportation infrastructure. The state gas tax has not been adjusted since 1991 and vehicle registration fees have not significantly changed since 1987. Since that time, due to inflation, the cost of building and maintaining roads and bridges has increased more than 150 percent. As vehicles become more fuel efficient, less fuel tax revenue is available to invest in new roads, even though cars are driving more miles than ever before.


Two years ago, transportation planners projected the need for $5 billion per year in additional revenues to maintain current levels of congestion. Voters overwhelmingly supported a transportation funding measure in November of 2014 to help close that gap, but it only took Texas about halfway down the road.


Gov. Greg Abbott saw the need to address this and designated transportation funding as an emergency item for the Legislature during the 84th Legislative session. In response, 180 of 181 legislators — Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban — approved Senate Joint Resolution 5, the legislative measure for Proposition 7.


By voting for Proposition 7, Texans will help solve the shortfall in transportation funding and make a critical investment in our state’s future. Building for the future keeps Texas competitive and productive. At the same time, investing in new transportation infrastructure improves congestion, saves time and increases safety. Please join with me on Nov. 3 by voting for Proposition 7.


Robert Nichols is the state senator for Senate District 3. First elected in 2006, Sen. Nichols represents 19 counties including much of East Texas. He is a former member of the Texas Transportation Commission.