The Texas House failed on Monday, July 15, to muster the required two-thirds majority to approve an ill-advised constitutional amendment giving highway projects a preemptive claim on state revenue at the expense of the Rainy Day Fund. But the proposal, contained in HJR 2 (plus a companion bill, HB 16, which would make related statutory changes) is still alive, and on Thursday, July 18, the House will try again to achieve the required majority of 100 out of the total House membership of 150 for HJR 2. Texas AFT urges you, if you have not done so already, to send an e-mail letter opposing this legislation to your state representative before the House votes sometime after 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Amendments added to HJR 2 Monday do not address the fundamental problem with the proposal. HJR 2 would give highway projects a preemptive claim to streams of revenue that currently fill the Available School Fund and the state’s general treasury. HJR 2 would make up for losses to the Available School Fund by diverting oil and gas revenue from the Rainy Day Fund. HB 16 would channel into highway projects a portion of the motor-vehicle sales taxes that now go into the general treasury and are available for education, health care, and other state needs. The eventual combined effect of the two bills would be to capture more than $2 billion per biennium for highways at the expense of other state priorities, while putting off urgently needed revenue reforms that would provide all major state priorities with secure funding streams.
The Texas legislature can do better than this rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach. Please send that e-mail letter now urging your state representative to oppose HJR 2 and HB 16! Lawmakers should draft an alternative plan that uses available revenue now to invest in all the state’s neglected human and physical infrastructure needs. Then they should create sustainable revenue streams to support infrastructure investments for the long term.
Here’s the text of the e-mail letter ready for you to send to your state representative from the Texas AFT Web site:
“I am writing today to ask you to oppose HJR 2 and HB 16, which would permanently divert money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and general treasury for transportation projects. While funding Texas’ roads and other transportation needs is of vital importance, these proposals are the wrong way to do it and undermine our ability to pay for other physical and human infrastructure investments. Texas has long-term funding needs for education, health care, water, and transportation–and we should develop sustainable revenue streams for all of them instead of pitting services against each other or funding some needs at the expense of others.”