Sen. Robert Nichols

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman

 

 

 

 

 

Voters Back Prop 7 by 83%

 

November 4, 2015

 

State Senator Robert Nichols has done it again.

 

Nichols, who is chairman of the Texas Senate Transportation Committee and a former member of the Texas Transportation Commission, devised an elegant proposal for additional highway funding that got unanimous support in the Legislature and overwhelming support from the voters. He was the primary author and champion of Proposition 7 which was approved by 83% of the vote on Tuesday.

 

Senator Nichols was also one of the architects of Proposition 1 which voters approved by 80% in 2014. It dedicated a portion of annual oil and gas production taxes to the State Highway Fund.

 

Nichols worked tirelessly for both propositions, making appearances across the state to urge support for measures that will provide much needed funding for our aging and congested transportation system. Rep. Joe Pickett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, sponsored both propositions in the House and campaigned extensively for their passage.


Proposition 7 will 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 will constitutionally dedicate a portion of the existing state sales taxes — including taxes paid on new vehicles — to transportation, meaning no new taxes will be created. Prop 7 will be the largest single increase in transportation funding in Texas history, without issuing debt.


Nichols argued again and again that funding transportation is a core function of state government that can no longer be put off.

 

"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," he said.


The vote in favor of Proposition 7 was consistently strong statewide. Gov. Gregg Abbott , Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Joe Straus and many elected officials across the state came out in support of the highway funding proposal. Abbott said that by voting to invest in transportation infrastructure Texans are creating an even better place for future generations to live, work and raise a family.

 

Brandon Janes, board chair of the Transportation Advocates of Texas, said, “The passage of Proposition 7 is a major step forward and much credit for this success should go to the local officials and regional transportation advocates across the state who did so much to get this measure through the Legislature and win voter approval.  The overwhelming support for the measure is a clear indication that Texans are committed to increased investment in transportation. There is still much work ahead of us.  Growth is putting more demand on the system and we must continue to address the state’s transportation funding shortfall in the years ahead.”

 

The Dallas Morning News followed up the election with an editorial saying that roads that can't handle the traffic carrying workers to jobs and goods to market hurt the competitiveness of cities, neighborhoods and states. "These constitutional changes are down payments on Texas' future competitiveness although heavy lifting remains...for the state's transportation needs."

 

"Passing Proposition 7 is an even bigger win for the state’s long-term economic viability, building from another voter-approved constitutional change last year that directed a portion of energy production taxes to help replenish the depleted state highway fund."

 

The Morning News went on to say, "These dedicated revenue streams are the right solutions. Annual road costs are running into the billions of dollars, and payments on debt for transportation needs now exceed expenditures for new construction. Borrowing more or tolling aren’t viable long-term answers; hiking the gasoline tax, while logical, presents significant political problems. Adjusted for inflation, the 20-cent-per-gallon tax, unchanged since 1991, is worth a mere 9.2 cents per gallon today."

 

"Texas is still playing catch-up on roads, education funding and property tax reform. Voter approval of Propositions 1 and 7 helps narrow the gap," the editorial concludes.