FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2001
AUSTIN, TX--Today the full Senate gave approval to Senate Bill 1282 by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, that creates a program supporting water port projects to improve the state's intermodal transportation related to commerce and trade.
Several states, unlike Texas, recognize the importance of port infrastructure and have established financing programs for the improvement, expansion and direct support of their ports. For this reason, the Texas Ports Association has urged the Legislature to help Texas ports compete with Florida, California, Mississippi and Louisiana ports.
Sen. Lucio, chairman of the Subcommittee on Border Affairs, said, "I felt compelled to file legislation after hearing testimony at our Interim Committee on Border Affairs hearings clearly showing that even though our ports are key, essential components of Texas' intermodal system, the state does not directly invest its revenues to build, renovate or expand port operations."
State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, who will sponsor the measure in the House, said, "Ports are a vital part of the Texas transportation system. As international trade increases in our hemisphere, the role of ports will be greatly magnified. Tomorrow's success in international commerce will be dictated by the actions we take now."
Writing in support of SB 1282, Mr. Donald R. Allee, executive director of the Port of Beaumont, noted, "The ports in our state together move an average of 317 million metric tons of cargo annually, which is responsible for nearly one million jobs and more than $30 billion in personal income for Texans."
SB 1282 recognizes the economic impact of the state's ports and establishes a Port Transportation and Economic Development Program. The bill requires the Texas Department of Economic Development (TDED) to fund, from money in the port access account fund, port transportation or facility projects. The port access account fund is established through this legislation and is held in the general revenue fund.
Co-author of the measure, state Sen. David Bernsen, D-Beaumont, said, "With the passage of this bill by the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, we've taken the first step toward ensuring that Texas' ports remain competitive. Port freight infrastructure is important to the state economy and this bill will provide much-needed support."
Port of Galveston Director Katherine D. Moore, also submitted in writing her support of this legislation. The letter stated, "The ability to keep Texas ports competitive is critical to maintaining Texas' ability to continue to move over 50 percent of the foreign imports and exports of the United States; maintain nearly one million jobs for Texans; and produce annually almost $5 billion in local and state sales tax revenue."
The legislation also creates an advisory committee (the Texas Port Transportation and Economic Development Advisory Committee), which is required to develop a two-year port capital program that defines the goals and objectives of the committee concerning the development of port facilities and projects. TDED must convene the first meeting of the committee by January 1, 2002.
"Texas is alone among states that are its major competitors for maritime commerce in offering its ports no form of assistance: funding, marketing or planning,"explained Dr. Leigh B. Boske, associate dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas, in his testimony during the interim.
"This legislation will go a long way in our efforts to enhance our port freight infrastructure," said Sen. Lucio.