The Texas Senate had several bills to pass today, the final day of the first called special session. However, Democrats are currently filibustering SB 5 – a pro-life bill, and have promised to continue until the session ends at midnight tonight. So this means SJR 2, the road funding bill, will die tonight. Perry is expected to call another special session immediately in order to pass the remaining bills that don’t get done by midnight.
SJR 2 takes a portion of the oil & gas severance tax revenues that would normally go into the General Revenue Fund (above and beyond the minimum amount that goes into the Rainy Day Emergency Fund) and dedicates it to fund state highways (an estimated increase of $900 million/yr though $4 billion is needed).
Amazingly, the House added a floor amendment to put the protections we asked for in the bill. So we are now in support of SJR 2. The House also overwhelmingly added an amendment to dedicate existing vehicles sales tax to roads (currently being diverted to General Revenue Fund), which would solve our road funding issues and allow us to fix TX highways WITHOUT TOLLS!
However, due to the short timeframe left in the special session, the Senate had to concur with any House changes. Key senators insisted the vehicle sales tax amendment needed to come off the bill or they would REFUSE to concur (our guess is that’s Senate Finance Committee Chair Tommy Williams who REFUSES to use ANY existing road tax revenues to fix the road funding problem – he wants to hold road funds hostage to tax increases!). So Rep. Linda Harper-Brown took the amendment off the bill a few hours later to satisfy the Senate.
Since it looks like SJR 2 won’t pass by tonight’s deadline and if Perry calls another special session, we may get another chance to pressure the Senate to fix the long-term road funding shortfall by ending road tax diversions and dedicating vehicles sales taxes to roads as part of SJR 2 or other legislation!