Gregg Abbott

Governor-Elect Abbott meets with the Texas Department of Transportation staff leadership team as part of his transition process. He stressed that the state must continue to show good stewardship to convince the public and lawmakers to provide more funding for transportation.

 

 

 

 

Governor-Elect Abbott Backing More Money for

Highways Including Vehicle Sales Tax Revenues

 

November 16, 2014

 

Texas Governor-Elect Greg Abbott made increased funding for highways an important theme in his successful bid to lead Texas for the next four years.

 

Abbott backed the Prop 1 highway funding constitutional amendment that voters approved by an overwhelming 4 to 1 margin.  It will provide $1.7 billion each year to help fill the state’s oversized highway funding gap.

 

VEHICLE SALES TAX
In his campaign appearances and in campaign advertising he said he believes it is time to dedicate a substantial portion of the state’s motor vehicle sales tax to highway funding and signaled to lawmakers that he will back them in advancing that idea.


Abbott did not come late to transportation advocacy.  In an October 2013 op-ed for the McAllen Monitor he wrote, “We need a permanent source of additional transportation funding, not one-time patches to our fiscal potholes.”


“Critical to our economy is better transportation infrastructure.  I support ending all diversions from the State Highway Fund to other spending programs.  Money raised for roads will be spent on road construction and maintenance.  These changes will add billions of additional dollars to keep Texans moving,” he wrote.


Abbott’s emphasis on transportation took the big stage in a series of widely aired campaign commercials in which he rolled down a freeway ramp next to a bumper-to-bumper line of vehicles.  He made his point saying, “A guy in a wheelchair can move faster than traffic on some roads in Texas.” He repeated his goal of ending diversions, a point that has been made by numerous lawmakers for several years.  The Legislature did make some progress on reducing diversions from the Highway Fund in 2013.


THE WORKING TEXANS PLAN
Abbott was much more explicit about transportation funding in his campaign position paper called “Greg Abbott’s Working Texans Plan,” a document which remains on his campaign’s website.
In it he recommends amending the Texas Constitution to dedicate “upwards of two-thirds” of motor vehicle sales and use tax revenue to the State Highway Fund.  The Plan notes that in fiscal year 2012 the vehicle sales tax brought $3.6 billion into the state coffers, making it among the largest sources of state revenue.  “Yet most of that money goes into the General Revenue Fund (GR), most of which is consumed in other areas of government.  Since motor vehicle sales have a direct impact on the state’s transportation infrastructure, it is appropriate to dedicate upwards of two-thirds of that tax to the State Highway Fund to keep pace with transportation needs.”

 

Two-thirds of the $3.6 billion in vehicles sales tax in FY 2012 would have amounted to $2.4 billion, more than the $2.3 billion that gasoline and diesel taxes contributed to the State Highway Fund in that year.

 

ENDING DIVERSIONS

Abbott’s Working Texans Plan also makes specific recommendations to deal with diversions by amending the Transportation Code “so that expenditures from the State Highway Fund (SHF) are used only for right-of-way acquisition, construction and policing of public roadways, and prohibit expenditures by any non-transportation agencies.”  

 

It notes that despite the clear constitutional provision that Motor Fuels Taxes “shall be used for the sole purpose of acquiring rights-of-way, constructing, maintaining, and policing such public roadways,” significant appropriations from the SHF are directed to agencies other than TxDOT and the Department of Public Safety. The majority (81 percent) of appropriations from the SHF over the past decade have gone directly to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). However, other amounts are diverted to seven other agencies, including the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

 

The campaign document estimates that prohibiting such appropriations would make an additional $400 million per year available for transportation without impacting the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute or the appropriations to the Office of the Attorney General for litigating right-of-way acquisitions on behalf of TxDOT.

 

“Non-transportation agencies that lose State Highway Fund appropriations under this reform could have that revenue made up from the General Revenue Fund, or the functions that are funded from the State Highway Fund could be transferred to other agencies. This reform is predicated on the notion that expenditures from the State Highway Fund should be used for constructing, maintaining, and policing roadways: expenditures that do not meet this standard should be funded from General Revenue.”