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Fri May 17, 2013
State Budget Deal Adds Money For Schools, Water-What About Roads?
The two-year state budget deal that appears to be coming together in Austin would restore $3.93 billion of the $5.4 billion in public education money cut last session.
It would also take $2 billion in Rainy Day savings money to create a loan fund to build water projects.
It’s unclear whether another proposed loan fund of up to $2.7 billion to build new roads will be part of the new budget.
A spokesman for Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams says that despite the reported deal there are "a lot of moving parts right now."
Senate Transportation Chair Robert Nichols said Thursday he was still hopeful that some portion of the road fund would survive though that would not solve the long term needs for new road capacity in Texas.
“Short term solutions are taking some money out of the Rainy Day Fund for transportation. That gets us there this year,” said Nichols referring to the revolving fund that would require the money be paid back with interest.
“The shortfall that TxDOT has for building new capacity and maintaining is about $4 billion a year. That’s what we need is about $4 billion a year,” said Nichols.
Sen. Nichols says he authored Senate Bill 287 to raise the transportation money needed long term. It would dedicate part of the sales tax on new vehicles to building new roadways and bridges. But Nichols says that legislation isn’t going anywhere this session.
"At last check the heart was still beating but the arms and legs weren't moving much," he said of the bill.
"Most of the things I've worked on that were very significant would take two or three sessions to pass," Nichols said, suggesting that the sales tax idea is one he might pursue in future sessions.