House Speaker Names Select Committee to

Look at Texas Highway Funding Crisis

 

April 6, 2014

 

State Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso will chair the House portion of the new select committee assigned to look at the Texas highway funding crisis and what to do about it.

 

Pickett was the author of HB 1 which set up select committees in the House and the Senate to look at transportation funding, expenditures and finance issues. The committees are directed to provide a written report of recommendations to the Legislature no later than November 1st -- just before the General Election which will include a ballot measure directing additional funding to the State Highway Fund.

 

In addition to Pickett, House Speaker Joe Straus appointed the following members to the House committee: Reps. Larry Phillips of Sherman, Armando “Mando” Martinez of Weslaco, Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Ruth Jones McClendon of San Antonio, Sergio Muñoz Jr. of Palmview, Dan Huberty of Houston, Paul Workman of Austin and Ron Simmons of Carrollton.

 

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has appointed a similar nine-member committee in the Senate. The members are Senators Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, Donna Campbell, Kevin Eltife, Kel Seliger, Kelly Hancock, Carlos Uresti and Judith Zaffirini.

 

The two committees are authorized to meet separately or jointly and hearings are expected to be scheduled in the coming weeks.

 

In his announcement Speaker Straus declared transportation a top priority for the Texas House. He asked the committee for an extensive, objective look at solutions. The buying power of dedicated highway funding has been declining steadily. Maintenance and construction have been sustained through unsustainable borrowing and one-time funding measures during the past decade.

 

HB 1 directs the two committees to study the following issues:


(1)  The future reliability of all current state transportation funding sources;


(2)  Alternatives that may increase available state funding for surface transportation, including an examination of increases to current surface-transportation-related funding streams and possible diversions of non-surface-transportation-related funding streams toward surface transportation funding;


(3)  The use of debt financing in state transportation funding, including the uses of the Texas Mobility Fund, and the effects on long-term transportation planning of using debt financing;


(4)  Alternative transportation funding options in use nationally and internationally;


(5)  Current and historic appropriations to the Texas Department of Transportation, including:

(A)  Whether that agency's budget structure best maximizes the application of limited public funds toward highway maintenance and construction;


(B)  Whether there are opportunities to reduce the use of money from the state highway fund by that agency for activities not related to highway maintenance and construction, including such uses as employee salaries and benefits; and


(C)  Possible benefits of developing a budget for that agency for the 2016-2017 state fiscal biennium using zero-based budgeting principles;

(6)  The uses of the state highway fund for agencies other than the Texas Department of Transportation, including and emphasizing the use of that fund for the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas; and


(7)  The original purpose of the economic stabilization fund established by Section 49-g, Article III, Texas Constitution, whether that purpose remains relevant, and whether it remains appropriate to continue using the net amount of oil and gas production taxes received in the 1987 state fiscal year as the basis for making general revenue transfers to the economic stabilization fund.