Notes & Noticias: Ending With A Good Start

Dear Friends,

Monday night, the Legislature finally passed a bill to create a funding mechanism for transportation projects in Texas, ending our third — and hopefully final — special session.

While this doesn’t solve our problem entirely, it creates a much needed new source of revenue for new roads, and repairs on dangerous roads and bridges.

Read on to learn more about what happened Monday to end the third special session, and find out about two important community events next week.

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Ending With A Good Start

Late Monday night, the House and Senate passed legislation to create a funding mechanism for urgent transportation projects across Texas. Now it’s up to the voters of Texas to approve $1.2 billion per year in additional funding for transportation.

During the second special session, it looked at times as if both houses — let alone both parties — would be able to come together and pass something to address these pressing infrastructure needs.

I’m glad that we finally passed HR 1, and I urge voters to support the constitutional amendment this November that will create a State Highway Fund and increase transportation funding by $1.2 billion per year.

Most of our current transportation funding comes from a 20% gas tax, but that hasn’t changed since 1991. With cars becoming more fuel efficient and our population booming in Texas, our funding situation has gotten worse every year.

Importantly, this is a good step away from Texas’s pattern of creating more debt to pay for our infrastructure needs. According to Rep. Joe Pickett, who authored this legislation, 30 cents of every dollar we give to TxDot is borrowed money. I am also pleased that the final legislation will not write a firm floor in the Rainy Day Fund into our state constitution. Instead, a committee of 10 legislators will set restrictions on spending if the fund is deemed too low.

However, let’s keep in mind that this is still far short of the estimated $4 billion that TxDOT says is needed merely to address our growing state’s transportation needs.

So while I’m glad that our business is done for this biennium, we will likely face these same challenges in 2015.

This bill is a step in the right direction, but we are still not keeping up with our infrastructure needs to accommodate our state’s tremendous economic and population growth. That means traffic will continue to increase, the cost of goods and services will increase, and new construction projects are likely to be tolled rather than free unless the legislature identifies more dedicated revenue sources for transportation.

Texas has so many urgent fiscal needs, from public education to Medicaid to water infrastructure. I’m glad we worked out a solution to begin to address transportation, but we’re still faced with many major challenges.

In Organic We Trust

As founder and chair of the Texas House Farm-To-Table Caucus, I’m deeply concerned with efforts to promote local farms and increase access to healthy foods in all of our communities.

Next Thursday, I’ll be part of a panel discussion following the film In Organic We Trust, a documentary that answers common questions about organic food. The film talks to farmers, organic certifiers, scientists, and organic critics to explore the truth behind the marketing.

Following the film, I will join other leaders in the local food movement and the film’s Director, Kiplin Pastor, discuss local barriers to sustainable agriculture here in Austin, as well as creative solutions.

The screening is next Thursday, August 16, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Doors are at 6:30 p.m. and the film starts at 7:00 p.m.

If you care about what you’re eating or what we’re feeding our kids, please join me for this event.

Community Forum, Friday August 16

Now that the session is over, please join me for a discussion of the latest events happening at the Capitol. I would like to hear any questions, comments and ideas that you have.

RBJ Center Community Forum
21 Waller Street, Austin TX
Friday, August 16
2:00-3:00 p.m.
All Are Welcome
I’m committed to making sure that all voices are included in the legislative process. Join me for this forum and let me know what you think our leaders need to be focused on.

Thanks for reading Notes and Noticias!

I do plan to continue these weekly newsletters now that we are out of session, and look forward to continue bringing you information about the impact of our work at the Capitol, as well as news about what’s happening in our community.