Star-Telegram Asks Voters to Focus on Prop 7

 

October 22, 2015

 

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial

 

If Texans vote for only one item on the Nov. 3 constitutional amendment ballot, it should be Proposition 7.


The amendment would provide funding for highway construction and maintenance across the state. .


Like highway funding itself, Proposition 7 is complicated.


Simplified, it would dedicate a portion of the growth in general sales tax revenue and motor vehicle sales and rental tax revenue to road funding.


The money could be used only for constructing, maintaining or acquiring rights-of-way for roads that are not toll roads, or to repay bonds issued by the Texas Transportation Commission.


The total amount going to roads from the two sources is expected to be about $3 billion a year.
That’s an important figure. The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University has said the state needs to spend an additional $5 billion a year just to keep congestion on highways from getting worse.


Texans recognized that need last November when they approved — by an overwhelming 80 percent of the vote — a constitutional amendment dedicating a portion of oil and gas tax revenue to road funding.


Comptroller Glenn Hegar issued an official revenue estimate on Tuesday saying he expects the State Highway Fund to receive $1.1 billion during the current fiscal year from that oil and gas tax revenue.


But because of oil and gas price and production declines, Hegar said he expects that figure to drop to $594 million in the next fiscal year.


The Legislature also has reduced the amount of State Highway Fund money going to things other than road construction and maintenance, but the sum of measures taken so far is still far short of meeting the $5 billion goal determined by the Texas Transportation Institute.


That’s where Proposition 7 comes in.


State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, chairman of the House Transportation Committee and House sponsor of the resolution that created Proposition 7, noted that there are safeguards in case state priorities change.


The Legislature can decrease the sales tax and motor vehicle sales and rental tax going to roads for up to three years at a time, and lawmakers must periodically review whether the allocations take place at all.


The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends voting for Proposition 7.