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Statewide Candidates Talk Up Highway Funding

 

March 20, 2014

 

Since the campaign season for Texas’ statewide offices started up in the fall some candidates have been speaking out in favor of action to solve the state’s growing highway funding crisis.

 

Both Democrat and Republican candidates have promised to deal with transportation funding because of its vital role in keeping the state’s economy strong, growing job opportunities and improving the quality of life for Texans.

 

Sen. Wendy Davis, now the Democrat Party nominee for governor, has spoken during the campaign about the need to make investments in transportation infrastructure.  She has continued to mention the need to end diversion of gasoline and diesel tax revenues that now go to other state programs. 


During a Texas Tribune forum she made the point that Texas leaders have been reluctant in recent years to have conversations about actually making the kinds of investments that are needed to have a strong economy that benefits all Texans.


Attorney General Greg Abbott, now the Republican Party nominee for governor, told audiences across the state during the primary that Texas’ crumbling, congested roads must be addressed.
His campaign website captures the message he has been talking to voters about:


“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 roads.  I also believe it is time to dedicate a substantial portion of the motor vehicle sales tax to road construction and maintenance.  These changes will add billions of additional dollars to keep Texans moving.  We need a permanent source of additional transportation funding, not one-time patches to our fiscal potholes.”


Efforts during the past two legislative sessions to move some vehicle sales tax revenue to the State Highway Fund have been derailed by members who believe all of this funding stream should continue to flow to the General Fund to meet a wide range of state obligations.


State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, now the Democrat Party nominee for lieutenant governor, said during the campaign that Texas deserves a better transportation system.


On her campaign website she pledges to prioritize investments in infrastructure, protecting water supplies and building quality roads. “I’ll make the tough decisions to secure funding for these basic building blocks for Texas’ economy,” she writes.


Some candidates have focused criticism on an effort by the Texas Department of Transportation to deal with a portion of the massive damage being done to rural roads by energy sector truck traffic.  To get to and from well locations these trucks must use county and farm-to-market roads that were originally built to handle light traffic and few trucks.  TxDOT made a budget request in 2013 for an additional $1 billion per year just to deal with this problem but that level of funding was never considered by the Legislature.  Instead, a one-time appropriation of $450 million was split with half going to qualifying counties.  The other $225 million is being used by TxDOT to address a fraction of the damage being done to state highways and farm roads.