The Texas Legislature voted to put transportation funding on the November 3 ballot with the intent that voters will approve almost $3 billion to fix the state’s roads and bridges.
The constitutional amendment was unanimously passed by all 31 senators on May 29, and overwhelmingly approved by the House 142-1 on May 30. The two-pronged proposal includes:
- Dedicating $2.5 billion per year from the state general sales tax to the state’s transportation fund starting in 2018 and ending in 2033; and
- Committing 35 percent of motor vehicle sales tax revenue over $5 billion a year starting in 2020 and expiring in 2030, expected to generate an estimated $432 million in the first year.
Lawmakers placed several caveats on the measure, including an option that would allow the Legislature to reduce either funding portion by 50 percent with a 2/3 majority vote. Additionally, revenue from the general sales tax element of the compromise could cease if the tax collects less than $28 billion in a fiscal year. Legislators also included an option to extend both elements of the compromise in 10 year increments.
Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) stated, “If passed by the voters, this legislation will be the largest single increase in transportation funding in Texas history.”
Last year, Texas voters approved a ballot measure to redirect half of the revenue generated from oil and gas taxes—approximately $1.2 to $1.7 billion per year—away from the state’s general Rainy Day Fund, to be deposited into the State Highway Fund. If voters approve this November’s ballot measure, the Texas Department of Transportation will be close to closing its $5 billion annual transportation funding gap.