The Texas House has given initial approval to a transportation funding plan that uses money from the gas tax rather than tapping the Rainy Day Fund.
As it stands today, and has since 1991, 20 cents of every gallon used to fill up your car has gone to the state's highway fund with the stipulation that five cents of it would go to fund education.
House Joint Resolution 2, authored by Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, would stop that diversion. Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, is the co-sponsor of the bill and explained the difference between the House bill and the Senate version.
"So what we are going to see under this bill compared to the bill we passed last session, under this bill you are actually going to see the ESF (Economic Stabilization Fund) or the Rainy Day Fund grow faster," Phillips said.
He said the Senate version of the bill takes half of the oil and gas industry's severance tax and transfers it to transportation, leaving the other half to help the Rainy Day Fund grow. The House bill takes 25 percent of that same money to fund education and leaves the remaining 75 percent for the Rainy Day Fund.
A companion bill, HB 16, was also given tentative approval and will give the Texas Department of Transportation one-third of the taxes taken during the purchase of new vehicles.
Both bills need at least 100 votes to pass and if they are given final passage they will also need to meet voter approval later this Fall.
However, some in the House are worried that having any transportation funding measure on the ballot will jeopardize the success of a crucial water funding bill that provides all the necessary funds for water projects over the next 50 years -- the transportation funding bill only provides one-third of what TxDOT needs to maintain current congestion levels.