The House and Senate cannot agree on a mechanism for transportation funding, and as a result the Legislature is already back for our third special session.
Despite large majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans cannot seem to pass legislation to address our most pressing and basic infrastructure needs.
This gridlock didn’t have to happen. The House passed a transportation funding plan during the first special session, but Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst chose not to bring transportation funding up for a vote in the Senate on the last day.
Let’s be honest — funding transportation projects with diversions from the Rainy Day Fund isn’t the best solution for the major crisis facing our Texas roads. However, with Republicans refusing to get real about the need for added revenue, the only funds available appears to be the pool of money set aside for emergencies. Even Republican Speaker Joe Straus agrees, saying the amount of money and mechanism is “like using a Band-Aid to cover a pothole.”
The “floor” the Republicans want to institute in the Rainy Day Fund is a bad idea.
It’s already difficult to access those funds for pressing needs in education and healthcare. Such a mechanism — in which transportation funds are only paid out if the Rainy Day Fund has a pre-established amount of money in it — would create tremendous uncertainty for our transportation agency, as they would be unable to forecast if funds would be consistently available over the coming years and decades.
During the regular session, a funding mechanism for the state water plan was passed only because Democrats in the House stuck together to demand more money for public education in return for voting for the plan. Now, with Democrats opposed to the Rainy Day Fund floor and Tea Party Republicans opposed to just about any spending on roads at all, we’re stuck.
Republicans have wasted two special sessions on passing terrible anti-choice legislation and intentionally discriminatory redistricting maps, both of which are likely unconstitutional and will cost the state millions in protracted legal battles. Just the three sessions alone will cost the state over $2.4 million dollars, calling into question Republicans’ claims of “fiscal conservativism.”
These three special sessions are a clear sign that Republican leadership is failing the people of Texas.
Our state needs new leaders who can step up and address the serious challenges we’re facing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. This endless legislative year has made abundantly clear that the Republicans just aren’t up to the task.