"If anything the restrictions on TxDOT’s behavior will get tougher, not easier, when the budget goes to the House..."
The Lone Star Report
The budget does little to reduce the diversions of gas tax money from road construction and maintenance. The great bulk of money for new construction in the budget is in bonding authority (i.e., borrowing money). The amount of construction in this budget is less than in the last few budgets.
Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), during debate, questioned the increasing reliance on bonding. He also estimated the reduction in diversions from the gas tax at a mere $21 million. Carona has long been a proponent of indexing the gas tax to inflation.
One area where the budget has made substantial progress is in TxDOT’s transparency and accountability. For example, one rider requires TxDOT to report to each senator any eminent domain proceedings in that Senate district. The provision from 2007 requiring Legislative Budget Board approval before spending public funds on a Comprehensive Development Agreement is retained. A comprehensive development agreement rents state right-of-way to a private company, which builds and operates a toll road during the term of the lease.
Another rider requires Legislative Budget Board approval to spend concession fee money from a comprehensive development agreement. Yet another rider expressly bans using state funds on comprehensive development agreements with non-compete clauses (provisions that penalize the state for building roads that compete with the toll road).
The budget also requires Legislative Budget Board approval to spend additional funds received during a biennium. This rider is a direct reaction to the Texas Department of Transportation spending money from the federal stimulus package without legislative direction.
If anything the restrictions on TxDOT’s behavior will get tougher, not easier, when the budget goes to the House, whose chief budget writer, Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), has long-standing disagreements with the agency and its Trans-Texas Corridor project. The corridor was slated to go through his district before the agency, under political pressure, declared the TTC dead.
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