NICHOLS ROLLS OUT NEW ROAD FUNDING PLAN
|Senator Robert Nichols of Jacksonville was joined by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (right) in proposing a new revenue stream for transportation in Texas on Wednesday.|
(AUSTIN) — Billions of new dollars could flow toward transportation funding each year under a plan proposed Wednesday by Jacksonville Senator Robert Nichols. Nichols announced the filing of SB 5 and SJR 5, a legislative package that would allow the voters to decide whether to dedicate part of annual motor vehicle sales taxes to road and bridge funding. He was joined by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who said he is strongly in support of this legislation. "It is my intent to move SB 5 and SJR 5 which will create additional money for transportation without increasing taxes on the driving public," said Patrick.
Nichols plan, if passed by the Legislature and approved by voters in the general election, would dedicate annual motor vehicle sales tax revenues exceeding $2.5 billion to the Texas Department of Transportation for use in funding non-tolled roads and bridges. Nichols estimated this to be about $2 billion per year in the near future, but by the next decade, population and economic growth could push that number north of $3 billion. The fact that it provides a stable, long-term revenue source to TxDOT is what makes the proposal so useful, he said. "For it to really work, it's not so much how much they get next year or the year after, TxDOT needs to know six years out, eight years out, so we can do the long term major projects that are needed in this state," said Nichols.
As the legislation is currently written, the new funds would fit into the 2018-2019 budget, but Nichols said that if the election were early enough and the math worked out, then new funds could go into the next biennial budget currently being crafted by lawmakers. The fact that 80 percent of voters approved $2 billion in additional road funding last election, he said, shows that the public wants to fund transportation costs. Patrick agreed and added that ensuring a robust network of roads and highways was critical to the future of the state. "We are going to address in the Texas Senate the needs of transportation in our state because our economy depends on it," he said. "Not just the time lost in traffic for families commuting, but of moving goods and services. It's very important, and this is a very sound approach that Senator Nichols has and we are going to move the bill."
The Senate will reconvene Monday, February 9 at 2 p.m.