The Texas House and Senate will attempt today to do what we pay them to do, and approve a proposal to spend nearly $1 billion a year in the vital goal of building new highways for the state's growing population, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Senate and House negotiators have come up with a compromise package which will divert some $848 million per year from the state's oil and gas royalties to the Texas Department of Transportation to pay for additional road repairs. It is only a fraction of the $4 billion TxDOT says it needs annually to keep up with the state's transportation needs.
That money would otherwise be go into the state's Rainy Day Fund, and many Tea Party conservatives, especially in the House, say that amounts to 'stealing' from future generations, and they plan to oppose the compromise. The compromise includes a provision to stop the diversions if the money in the Rainy Day Fund falls below $6 billion, about half of where it is now.
The proposal will be a Constitutional Amendment, which means voters will be asked to approve it in November of 2014 before it can become law. That is expected to be a conservative 'wave' election, with all state officers on the ballot, and the off-year election in a second Presidential term is always dismal for the party currently in the White House. The ascent of the Democratic Party began in 2006, when Democrats made major inroads in the House and Senate.
A large Republican surge in 2014 could spell trouble for the road bill, but Texans appear to have spoken against all other alternatives, including toll roads, a higher gasoline tax, and wider use of mass transit.
Approval of the bill would mean the Legislature could finally get out of town. With the 140 day regular session and two special sessions, lawmakers have been hanging around Austin since early January.
State Rep. John Rainey (R-Bryan) says if the compromise falls apart, Texas taxpayers can expect to reach into their wallets and pay another $1.2 million for another session of padded Legislative expense reports.
"I am fearful that we may be headed to another special session, the governor has already threatened it," Rainey said. "The governor has already threatened it, and I think transportation funding is an important enough issue that a special session is important."