The roads are packed. You are late again, frustrated and angry that traffic congestion seems to be getting worse every day. Is there anything you can do to make things better? You can help make a start on improving our state’s traffic nightmares by casting a vote for an amendment to the state constitution in the upcoming election.
How did things ever get so bad? In the 1990s we began to fall behind on providing adequate roads for the state’s increasing population and growing economic activity as funding for roads became scarce. Both federal funds and money from the state legislature declined. 1991 was the last year that the state gasoline tax was increased, and since then inflation and increased fuel economy for newer vehicles have decreased the value of the contribution this tax makes to the State Highway Fund. The legislature was reluctant to pass new taxes, so instead turned to the building of toll roads and the issuance of bonds to fund Texas roads. Now the public is pushing back against the proliferation of toll roads and our authority to issue more bonds has come to an end. Something’s got to give.
The legislature has tried to make a start on reversing the trend of declining funding by proposing a constitutional amendment that would redirect some of the money that has been going into the Economic Stabilization Fund (called the “Rainy Day Fund”) to the State Highway Fund instead. These revenues are generated by the state’s oil and gas production tax, and have been more abundant in recent years than anyone had predicted. It is proposed that the two funds split these revenues equally, and a legislative committee will be appointed to oversee safeguards provided that guarantee that the Rainy Day Fund never falls below a sufficient minimum balance.
There are several advantages to this approach:
–Since the money is coming from an existing tax, there are no new taxes, fees or debt.
–The funds go strictly towards building new roads and maintaining existing ones.
–None of the money will go to toll roads.
–No money will be withdrawn from the Rainy Day Fund.
This approach is not the whole answer. It is estimated that our need for road funding is in the range of 5 billion dollars a year. The state comptroller estimates that this measure will bring in 1.7 billion the first year. Yet, this is an important and necessary first step. At least it will send the message to the legislature that we are serious about wanting them to get moving on addressing our state’s pressing transportation needs.
The Texas economy has been the envy of the entire nation in recent years, creating jobs and luring new businesses every day. Without adequate investment in our infrastructure, both our economy and quality of life will suffer. Vote for this measure to help insure that enough jobs will be created to guarantee you have one after you graduate, rather than have to worry about being unemployed while stuck in nightmarish traffic.
Students for Texas Transportation is a statewide student organization. Join us by contacting Jonathan Box, a senior at Trinity University, at email@example.com.