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TRANSPORTATION FUNDING – Huberty sees 3rd session on roads

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Gov. Rick Perry has called the Texas Legislature into a third special session to address transportation funding after a proposed constitutional amendment stalled.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared the session over on Tuesday after it did not act on a constitutional amendment that would boost transportation spending by $900 million a year. The money would come from oil and gas revenues diverted away from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Gov. Rick Perry as expected called lawmakers back within 30 minutes to begin a third special session.

The House didn’t get a two-thirds supermajority to approve the deal that would put the amendment in front of voters in 2014 for highway construction.

The measure falls short of the $4 billion a year experts say the state needs for roads.

If approved by voters on a 2015 ballot, it would have freed up at least $840 million annually — less than a fourth of what the state needs to maintain its current road network.

This reporter jokingly asked Dan Huberty R., District 127, if the third session was to get FM 2100 widened from Crosby to Huffman, he answered “That is a good analogy! So that we do have the resources to do programs like that. ”

“There are multiple ways to fund it,” Huberty patiently answered a barage of questions, “You could fund it through bonds, which is what we’ve been doing. We have $17 Billion in debt. We have enough debt and we need to be responsible and start retiring that debt. You could pay for it out of your revenue streams and we have the Rainy Day Fund, which was never meant to have more than a few million dollars in it. We are going to have more than 8 or 9 billion dollars in that Rainy Day Fund, right? Or you can go and increase peoples fees and taxes. Well – I am certainly not going to support a fee or tax increase.”

“The money that is coming in is coming in from oil and gas revenues, well oil and gas companies need to have good roads and they are also beating our roads up so that is where some of that money would come from. So what they are going to do is put a floor in of how much money needs to stay in the fund, let’s say 5 or 6 Billion dollars in case we have a disaster. Then 50% would go into the highway fund. That way we create a mechanism so that we don’t have to continue to borrow money and we have money to go into building our roads.”

The Legislature has met since January. The last time it had three special sessions was in 2005-2006 over school finance issues.

“I for one have a hard time understanding why anybody from Harris County or Montgomery County would not vote for transportation. It is the number one issue at every Chamber of Commerce, what do they say we need, ‘We need better roads.’ So everytime the transportation has come up I have suppported it. I would remind people that we gave businesses and people a tax refund of about $1.6 billion from this session and we put more money in education.”