In one full day the House and the Senate passed a transportation funding bill that dramatically changes the way we fund transportation in Texas.
The State Highway Fund will receive an estimated $1.2 billion per year from the Rainy Day Fund. However this still falls short of the $4 billion TxDOT needs to maintain current levels of infrastructure. The $1.2 billion dollar estimate is based on the balance in the Rainy Day Account and oil and gas tax revenue, and will be officially determined by the Comptroller. There is no sustaining diversion from the gas tax, like there was in the bill last special session.
The bill also creates a floor in the Rainy Day Fund so the balance of the state's emergency savings account doesn't disappear to transportation. The enabling legislation, HB 1, creates a mechanism that enables the legislature to vote on the floor balance of the Rainy Day Fund during the first 30 days of each regular session. The constitutional measure, which approves the continual transfer from the RDF, will go to voters in 2014.
Unfortunately, tuition revenue bonds did not make the cut. There was some political will to get them through, but with a fear of Representatives like Stickland or Krause threatening to add amendments or kill the bill, it was a non-starter.
The end of this session marks one of the longest ongoing meetings of the Legislature in history. When the Senate adjourned Sine Die, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst mentioned that there were no more issues of concern coming from the Governor's Office, marking the final ending of this dramatic 83rd Legislature. As one legislator put it, “We are Sine Dead.”