Transportation Vote Fails In Texas House

Jul 29, 2013

UPDATE

It appears state lawmakers will not pass new transportation funding in the special session that ends tomorrow, though long-time observers say there are procedural moves that leave a small window of opportunity.

This afternoon the Texas House could not muster the 100 votes needed to  send HJR 2  to voters next year.  Just 84 representatives voted in favor of the bill but because it would amend the constitution the support of two-thirds of House members was necessary.  

The proposed constitutional amendment would have added more than $800 million a year for the construction and maintenance of bridges and roads.

The new money would have come from taxes on oil and gas production that normally flow into the state's Rainy Day Fund.  Half of that revenue would have been diverted to the state’s highway fund.

Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey says  there is a slim chance the bill could be revived if supporters "get one of the no votes to move to reconsider their vote, hope that there are some flips or that enough of the missing 26 members (show up) and  bring the total to 100." 

The big question now is whether Governor Rick Perry will immediately call the lawmakers back for a third special session to adopt a transportation funding  he’s called a priority. 

EARLIER STORY

Texas lawmakers are meeting to consider final passage of legislation that could boost funding for road construction and maintenance.

The proposed constitutional amendment could add more than $800 million a year for the construction and maintenance of bridges and roads.

House Democrat Joe Pickett, a member of the transportation committee, told KUT Public Radio it’s the biggest shot in the arm for Texas transportation in 20 years.

“We do have enough money in transportation for the next two years after that we don’t have a plan,” said Pickett as he entered the House chamber this afternoon.

The constitutional amendment would have to be approved by two-thirds of the members in each chamber before it’s sent to voters in November 2014 for final approval and enactment.

Some bill supporters have been concerned that many of the lawmakers aren’t showing up because the regular session has been extended twice, and their absences could give opponents the opportunity to derail the legislation.

The new transportation money would come from taxes on oil and gas production that normally flow into the state's Rainy Day Fund.  Half of that money would be diverted to the state’s highway fund.

There has been disagreement on whether the diversion of funds should be halted if the Rainy Day Fund, a savings account of sorts, dips below a certain dollar amount.

Pickett says the bill going to the House floor doesn’t set a dollar amount for stopping the diversion but members of the legislative budget board are authorized to do that before each session.