Prop. 1 draws local support, questions

Proposition would allow legislature to divert oil, gas tax revenue to transportation funding

By Charles Gonzalez - Anchor/Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The president of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce said the chamber supports Proposition 1 on the current ballot and hopes voters agree.

The proposition would amend the state constitution to allow the Legislature to divert oil and gas tax revenue away from the state's Rainy Day fund to transportation funding. The amendment would allow the revenue to support transportation projects for a decade and it's estimated to bring an additional $1.7 billion to road construction next year.

"It's dollars that are sitting there (and) they're going to sit there, so why not put them to use to help expand roadways and deal with the congestion?" asked chamber president Richard Perez. "Taxes don't go up, there's no tolling. Just a good deal to use additional resources for our state."

"When we're looking at our 25-year plan, we're making the assumption that if Prop. 1 does come to fruition, it could mean about $650 million in new projects across our region," added Leroy Alloway, of the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The MPO will release a priority list in its 2040 plan at its next board meeting on Monday. It currently has a list of 50 proposed projects that could benefit from Proposition 1 money.

"Nationally it can take 10-14 years for a project to go from conception to traffic driving on it," said Alloway. "The sooner we can get started on making those plans, on getting those studies underway, the sooner everyone can start seeing relief."

Terri Hall, of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, said her group has not adopted a position but believes the ballot item brings attention to a bigger problem of constantly underfunding transportation.

"The lack of discipline in our Legislature as well as the structural funding shortfall that we haven't raised the gas tax or indexed it to inflation for 20 years so how do we expect to keep pace?" said Hall before beginning a TURF meeting on Thursday. "Even if Prop. 1 passes, it only solves 25 percent of the funding problem. We still have to come up with another $3 (billion) to $4 billion every year."

Another concern raised by Hall is the lack of trust some have in the Texas Department of Transportation. While the new money could not go to toll roads, Hall feels it puts voters in a bind and the estimates are not guaranteed money.

"It tends to be a volatile source of money. That's one of the drawbacks," said Hall. "I think they really have voters over a barrel in a lot of ways because people don't trust TxDOT to do the right thing but at the same time, this is a source of money we can use that wouldn't raise our taxes and doesn't include toll roads."

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