FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2013
Austin, Texas — Today the Texas Legislature passed SJR 1, creating a constitutional amendment to dedicate up to 50 percent of all oil and gas severance taxes currently transferred to the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) to the state highway fund.
"I am thankful for Governor Perry's leadership in calling this session to address such an important issue," said Nichols. "I would also like to thank Lt. Governor Dewhurst, Speaker Straus and all members of the House and Senate. Our state's economy depends upon having a safe and reliable road system."
According to estimates from the comptroller's office, SJR 1 could deposit as much as $1 billion a year into the state highway fund. The resolution stipulates that the funds could only be used for constructing, maintaining and acquiring rights-of-way for non-tolled, public roadways. However, it is also careful to ensure a healthy balance is left in the ESF before transportation dollars are ever removed from the funding stream.
"We continue to face a serious crisis in transportation," said Nichols. "Our state's population is increasing exponentially; our system is aging; traffic continues to rise; and funding for congestion relief will be at a 10 year low in a short two years. The state is also paying millions of dollars a year in debt service for transportation related debt. SJR 1 will go a long way in helping to resolve these problems."
Because SJR 1 is a constitutional amendment, it has passed each chamber with a two-thirds majority. Citizens will now see it on the ballot in November of 2014.
Nichols, a former Texas transportation commissioner, currently serves as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He has been working on Texas transportation issues in various capacities since 1997.