Tensions between the House and Senate over education funding have hit an all-time high this session, and that along with an added provision related to fees charged to overweight 18 wheelers worries Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, because of the transportation dollars tied to those same spending bills.
"It does put another hurdle. I would've preferred not to have another hurdle, but if that is the Senate’s way, to link the two together, I think that people who would want to vote against [the fee] would have to consider what, in effect, they are doing. By voting against that and jeopardizing the bill they are also jeopardizing the $455 million for rural roads," Darby said.
Darby said the other thing tied to the money is a bill that ends funding diversion, where part of the transportation fund goes toward Department of Public Safety and the Department of Motor Vehicles, which would supply another $400 million.
Darby said that total adds up to about the amount money the state pays for asphalt to repair roads.
"So by keeping the same congestion we see today and keeping the same road conditions we see today, for maintenance its going to take about $4 billion a year. This budget does not include anywhere near that," Darby said.
Darby said the state’s on-going drought has been a mixed blessing because one good downpour would completely destroy the road system in many areas of the state, a fact that is especially true in the high-revenue producing oil and natural gas producing areas.
"I had one TXDOT official tell me that absent a reliable stream of revenue, they are going to have to grade up the asphalt on those roads and turn it back into gravel," Darby said
For now Darby is holding his breath, waiting for lawmakers to reach a compromise on a bill that includes funding for schools and roads.