Update (2:30 p.m.): The Senate took the house transportation plan, replaced it with their own funding mechanism, and then passed it on a unanimous vote.
The original House bill's plan to end the gas tax diversion has been eliminated, and the Senate has elected to go with the 50-50 oil and gas industry tax split in their own version of the bill. The Senate also established a $6 billion floor for the Rainy Day Fund, which must be maintained for the State Highway Fund to get the money from the oil and gas industry tax.
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.
Some House Republicans feel that too much time is being spent debating abortion legislation during the special session and not enough time on roads.
The House first assigned a set of four abortion bills to a select committee on Monday, giving the bills a later start than their Senate companions, but despite that there are some who feel the bills have a fighting chance.
The new VIA smartphone app, Go VIA VIA, has a real chance at changing the landscape of transportation in San Antonio by making it easier for long-time riders and new riders to navigate the intricate maze of bus routes and schedules. (see note about new riders at bottom of post*)
The 85 mile-per-hour toll road that connects Austin with San Antonio is getting less traffic than planners hoped for.
In turn, Moody’s Investor Service lowered the credit rating of Cintra, the company that operates SH 130 toll road, by four grades. Moody’s says unless traffic increases significantly, the credit rating will continue to fall.
Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, said his plan uses a portion of the Rainy Day Fund without actually taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund.
"What it does is once you pass a certain threshold and as the fund approaches filling, which it got pretty close, then it would splinter part of that off for constitutionally dedicating some of that revenue stream to transportation," Nichols said.
Nichols says this will allow the Rainy Day Fund to continue to grow, but not as quickly. Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, helped solidify the financing portion of the plan.