AUSTIN – The Legislature received this week a key Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) report that highlights and explains the Department's plans for addressing the state's transportation needs.
The report was required by House Bill 20, a major transportation reform bill authored by Rep. Ron Simmons and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. House Bill 20, a key component of the Texas House's efforts to improve mobility in Texas, aims to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively by requiring TxDOT to implement a performance-based planning process that prioritizes funding for projects with the most need.
"The Legislature provided significant new resources for transportation this year," said House Speaker Joe Straus, San Antonio. "But it's just as important to make sure that those resources are used in an appropriate and efficient way that will relieve congestion in the state. That's why House Bill 20 was important."
According to the TxDOT report, "Under Governor Abbott's leadership, the Texas Legislature moved positively during the last legislative session to bring a substantial measure of certainty to TxDOT's financial and planning processes. . . .TxDOT appreciates that its call for additional funding has been addressed and fully understands that it must now ensure these resources are effectively and efficiently deployed to meet the state's transportation needs."
Transportation funding was a top priority during this year's legislative session. Speaker Straus led the successful effort to end so-called diversions of the gas tax, which for decades allowed the state to take money out of the State Highway Fund and use it for purposes other than transportation. The Legislature ensured that those dollars would only be used for transportation, which provided an additional $1.3 billion in funding over two years.
The Legislature also approved a plan to constitutionally dedicate up to $3 billion per year in state sales tax revenue, providing a reliable source of revenue for roads. The plan, which will require an amendment to the Texas Constitution, will go before voters for approval this November.
Over the last two sessions, the Legislature has acted to increase transportation funding by more than $4 billion per year without higher taxes or fees. This injection of resources, along with the prioritization of projects called for by House Bill 20, will allow long-delayed transportation projects to move forward. For example, Speaker Straus is working to see that transportation officials soon begin work on a long-planned expansion of Highway 281 in San Antonio, and that they abandon plans to finance that project with toll bonds.
"The Texas House has made clear that transportation is a top priority," Speaker Straus said. "All of us in the House look forward to working with TxDOT to address our communities' transportation needs."
Speaker Straus added, "I want to thank Representative Simmons and Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff for their outstanding leadership in implementing House Bill 20 and reforming the project-selection process at TxDOT."
The TxDOT report on House Bill 20 can be found here: http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/sla/hb-20.pdf.