So far in all the stories I’ve read about the beginning of the legislative session, education and transportation are two of the biggest items everyone talks about. Here’s a sample from the Chron.
[Rep. Ed] Thompson said funding for transportation is another high priority going into the session.
“The gas tax has not been visited since the early 1990s,” he said. “It’s not generating enough money. We’re going to have to figure out a way to fund highways going forward.”
[Sen. Larry] Taylor agreed. “Transportation is a huge issue particularly in our area,” he said. “We have to get more dollars to our roads and highways, and how we do that is up for debate.”
He said fuel taxes and increased registration fees are possible options.
“To build roads and maintain what you have, you need to have funds,” Taylor added. “And the system we have is not doing the job. We need additional funding.”
Transportation is another key issue, [Rep. Bill] Callegari said.
“Texas is doing really well bringing business to the state, but if we can’t bring adequate transportation, they’re going to stop coming,” he said.
Funding for transportation could be a topic for debate, he added.
“We have a gas tax that we use to fund transportation,” he said. “Cars use less gas, and less gas means less income. We’re going to have to look for ways to finance transportation in the future.”
Improving infrastructure is how Callegari believes the state can protect the economy.
“Our economy is doing well, but it is contingent on making sure we have more funding for transportation, water and rail,” he said. “The most important thing is that we can keep rolling to work and keep moving goods across the state to keep our economy moving.”
So is this genuine concern about finding adequate funds for transportation – and they’ll need a lot of funds – or just boilerplate talking points going in to a new session? With the happy budget news, it seems to be more the former, but we’ll see how that actually plays out. For now at least I will note that the discussion has mostly centered on what the state needs and the need to pay for it – water issues are another common thread – and there’s little to no talk about the need to cut back. Again, maybe this means nothing, but it is a different sound than what we were hearing two years ago. Make of it what you will.