Driving Into The Ditch

Transportation funding has become one of the most challenging issues the legislature deals with.  I regularly give speeches advocating for funding at numerous conferences and even appeared on TXDOT Chair Amadeo Saenz’ TV show regarding “The Cost of Doing Nothing” to increase transportation funding in Texas.  Today’s unveiling of HB1 is a warning sign that Texas could be heading for a major ditch on the road to growth.

Last session, TXDOT was promised $2 billion in Proposition 12 funds transportation projects from the Legislature and has since committed to $2 Billion in transportation projects.  However, the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board have only approved $1 billion worth of funding and House Bill 1, as introduced, fails to appropriate the additional $1 billion that was promised. The legislature must appropriate an additional $1 billion from Prop 12 funds to cover projects that are in progress.

If TXDOT does not receive the second billion, they would be forced to cancel all transportation projects except for the Prop 12 projects they have already begun.

With their current budget, TXDOT has barely enough funding to keep up with basic maintenance and operations costs.

The budget proposed in HB1 would appropriate half a billion dollars less than the previous biennium. That puts us on pace for less than half of the investment recommended by the Governor appointed committee 2030 Committee, which studied the State’s transportation needs over the next 19 years.

HB 1 seeks to slash $740.9 million in General Obligation Bond Proceeds, $462.9 million in Texas Mobility Funds, $396.2 Million in State Highway Fund Bond Proceeds, and 7.8 Million in Other Funds from Interagency Contracts and Appropriated Receipts.

The proposed budget would also impede road maintenance at the county level.  In the last budget cycle, $27.7 million was appropriated for county road repair and maintenance.  This budget proposal reduces that amount to zero.

While cuts will have to be made to all sectors of our budget, we must be careful not to do exponentially more harm than is necessary. Not fixing a damaged road doesn’t just delay an expense, it compounds it.  Even worse, it doesn’t just represent an inconvenience, but it can negatively impact local businesses, clog our corridors and further damage our economy.

The road to balancing our state budget will be paved with tough choices, but lets not ignore the warning signs and drive what is left of our economy into a ditch.

These cuts will have an impact in Central Texas and I am currently researching the specific projects that will be affected.  I will update my website when the findings become available.