TYLER — Tyler state Rep. Matt Schaefer voted Monday in favor of House Bill 1 and House Joint Resolution 1, which he says will provide much needed funding for road construction and maintenance. The boom in the Texas oil and gas sector has significantly increased the amount of tax revenues sent to the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, according to Schaefer. He says it is the state’s savings account that has helped maintain government functions during hard economic times.
The measures will allow some of the oil and gas tax revenue to be diverted to building and maintaining roads, but only once a prudent amount of money has been deposited into the Rainy Day Fund, according to a news release from Schaefer. Elected members of the Legislature will set the minimum amount in the Rainy Day Fund based upon economic conditions and the needs of the state. If the fund gets too low, the diversion of oil and gas tax revenue would end.
“The risk takers in the oil and gas industry have blessed Texas with a healthy amount of new tax revenue. We need additional money for roads and bridges and so this bill makes sense. It is an investment that will benefit every Texan. We need to keep the trucks rolling and the goods moving to market, or we risk choking our economic engine,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer says transportation funding based upon fuel taxes per gallon has declined significantly over the years due to more fuel efficient vehicles. The state has also relied heavily on borrowing for road needs. Current projections indicate the new law will provide an additional $878 million in FY 2015. The money can only be used for constructing, maintaining, and acquiring rights-of-way for non-toll public roads. The measure will require voters to approve a constitutional amendment in 2014. “Texas is growing rapidly and this doesn’t solve the transportation funding problem, but it counts as progress and helps us move away from debt and toward a pay-as-you-go approach,” Schaefer said.