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Key Lawmakers Campaign For November Passage Of Transportation Fund

Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, talk with KERA's Shelley Kofler about the transportation measure on the November ballot.
BJ Austin
/
KERA News
Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, talk with KERA's Shelley Kofler about the transportation measure on the November ballot.

Most of the attention for November elections has been on the governor’s race and battles between candidates.

But voters will also decide whether to use some of the oil and gas tax money that would go into the Rainy Day savings fund to pay for roads.

The two lawmakers who oversee transportation in the state Senate and House are touring Texas to gain support for what will be Proposition 1 on the ballot.

They say the state will run out of money for new roads in two years if nothing is done.

Proposition 1 would raise about $1.7 billion annually that could be used to build new roads and bridges or maintain current ones.Sen. Robert Nichols says Proposition 1 money couldn't be used for toll roads.

Republican Robert Nichols of Jacksonville, the Senate Transportation Chairman, wants voters to know the new money couldn’t be used for toll roads.

“There was this fear that, oh gosh, what keeps you from spending it all on toll roads?  By saying it cannot be used on toll roads we eliminated that objection,” said Nichols.   

Each part of the state would get some of the new money.  It might not be enough to build an entirely new project but El Paso Democrat Joe Pickett, the House Transportation Chairman, says it could be enough to finish a local one. Rep. Joe Pickett says Proposition 1 money could help communities finish transportation projects.

“If I’ve got a $40 million  project that I’m trying to do but I’m $12 million short, I’ve just done a $40 million project instead of waiting and nickel and diming. So this gives us an opportunity,” Pickett said.

The lawmakers say Proposition 1 would only be a first step in meeting the state’s transportation needs.  The next legislature will have to look at ways to raise additional revenue. 

The Texas Department of Transportation says the state needs at least $4 billion more a year just to keep today’s congestion from getting worse.

The lawmakers say chambers of commerce, realtor groups and business organizations will be among those coordinating a campaign to pass Proposition 1.  So far there's been no organized opposition. 

Key Lawmakers Campaign For November Passage Of Transportation Fund

Copyright 2014 KERA

Shelley Kofler is managing editor/senior reporter forKERANews. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who has served asKERAnews director and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliateWFAA-TV. Her expertise on legislative policy issues includes school finance, foster care and transportation; and her stories on the overmedication of foster children captured the attention of state officials who strengthened laws for the use of psychotropic drugs.