HJR 13 Would Constitutionally Dedicate More Than
$3 Billion a Year to Highways and Bridges

 

March 30, 2015

 

The Texas House Transportation Committee has begun consideration of a measure that would allow voters to constitutionally dedicate some existing sales tax revenues to help bridge the states highway funding gap.

 

On March 26th the committee heard initial testimony on HJR 13, a proposed amendment offered by Rep. Joe Pickett, transportation committee chairman.  If approved the measure would dedicate an additional $3 billion a year to building non-toll highways and to making payments on previously issued highway project bonds. Additionally it would dedicate 2% of all general sales tax revenue to transportation. This would add about $500 more per year to transportation funding and would grow over time with the economy.

 

Measure Would Sunset in 2026

The amendment would be put to the voters in November and if approved would be effective Sept. 1, 2016.  The funding dedication would have a life span of 10 years, expiring in 2026 unless extended by Texas voters.


Texas needs more than $5 billion a year in additional construction contract lettings to maintain current conditions on the state’s highways.  Several proposals are being considered during the current session of the Texas Legislature that would each fill an incremental portion of the funding shortfall.

 

The companion HB 13 legislation related to HJR 13 would eliminate authority for the Department of Transportation to issue various forms of debt during a two year moratorium in FY16 and FY17. 

 

The proposed bill also would require TxDOT to establish a performance-based planning and programming budget.  It directs TxDOT to set up uniform guidelines for prioritization of projects to be funded.

 

Senate Approves SJR 5/SB5

The Texas Senate has approved SJR 5 and SB 5 on a 28-2 vote and forwarded them to the House for consideration.  SJR 5/SB 5 would put a constitutional amendment to the voters that would allocate the first $2.5 billion in annual vehicle sales tax revenue to the state’s General Revenue Fund.  The next $2.5 billion would go to the State Highway Fund.  Any revenue greater than $5 billion would be divided with 50% going to roads, 30% to the General Fund and 20% to pay raises for teachers.  The proposal was authored by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate Transportation Committee chairman, and the teacher pay raise amendment was offered by Sen. Royce West

 

Senator Nichols noted that the legislation received overwhelming support from local elected officials, chambers of commerce and many of the largest trade associations in Texas because it provides a long-term, reliable funding source for transportation that is vital to our state’s economic success.

 

Texans pay a 6.25% state sales tax on vehicles. As it stands, all of the vehicle sales tax collected, projected to be more than $5 billion annually in FY 2016, goes into the state's General Revenue Fund.

 

Bills have been filed in the Texas House that also call for constitutional dedication of vehicle sales tax revenues.  HJR 91 by Rep. Larry Phillips would have the first $2.5 billion a year in the vehicle sales tax going to General Revenue and all additional revenues going to the Highway Fund.

 

Appropriations bills being worked on in both the House and Senate include provisions that would pay for Department of Public Safety operations from General Revenue.  This would end a diversion of approximately $620 million a year from the State Highway Fund if it survives in the state budget as finally adopted.

 

Similarly drafted bills in the House and Senate would allow county commissioners courts to impose an additional $10 per year vehicle registration fee to provide funding for road and bridge projects.