Submitted by Ken Paxton, State Senator
Earlier this week, Governor Rick Perry delivered his State of the State address where he identified tax relief, infrastructure and education as his top three priorities for this legislative session. I agree that my colleagues and I should give precedence to all of these issues during the next four months while the Legislature is in session. Specifically with regards to transportation, I support the Governor’s proposal to dedicate $1.3 billion to the state budget so that this money may be properly re-allocated to the state highway fund.
One of the most frustrating practices I have witnessed since serving in the Legislature is the diversion of gas tax revenue to fund non-transportation related expenditures. To address this issue, I have just introduced Senate Joint Resolution 25 and Senate Bill 309 to limit the permissible uses of the State Highway Fund and to dedicate additional revenues to the Fund in order that we may better address our state’s transportation needs. If passed and approved by the voters, these measures will constitutionally dedicate future gas tax revenues to State Highway Fund for use in construction and maintenance of highways and the purchase of highway right-of-ways.
Currently, 25% of our state’s gas tax revenue is constitutionally required to go to the available school fund. However, of the remaining 75% in revenue, over $1.3 billion is appropriated for purposes other than building and maintaining our state’s transportation infrastructure. My legislation would reallocate this revenue to the construction and maintenance of non-tolled public roads and other transportation-related infrastructure in Texas. Additionally, my legislation would dedicate other existing taxes, such as sales tax collected from the sale of tires and motor vehicle parts as well as the existing tax revenue from undyed diesel fuel used for off-highway vehicles to the credit of the State Highway Fund.
The Texas Department of Transportation is in need of additional funding for highway construction to keep up with our state’s population growth. Conservative estimates by the Texas State Demographer show that Texas’ population will nearly double in the next 30 years. This growth will obviously create congestion on our state’s roads, particularly in growing cities and suburban areas, like most of the communities in North Texas, if we do not address this problem now. By stopping the current diversions and dedicating additional revenue from sales and use taxes to the State Highway Fund, the Legislature can provide more funds to improve our state’s infrastructure while finding opportunities to cut existing taxes.