Gov. Rick Perry on Monday added funding for transportation infrastructure improvements to the agenda of the special legislative session.
The move came with just two weeks left in the 30-day session, already facing partisan quarreling over its single topic of redistricting that dashed hopes of quick approval of new maps for legislative and congressional districts.
In a statement, Perry said the state’s growing economy and population demands a source for new funding for roads and bridges. The issue was not addressed in the regular legislative session that ended in May.
“Texas’ growing economy and population demand that we take action to address the growing pressure on the transportation network across the state,” Perry said in his statement. “As we enjoy the benefits of a booming economy, we have to build and maintain the roads to ensure we sustain both our economic success and our quality of life.”
In his State of the State address in January, Perry had called for the Legislature to take a one-time $3.7 billion investment in water and transportation infrastructure projects from the state’s so-called rainy day fund. Lawmakers approved a measure to ask voters to authorize $2 billion for water projects, but the transportation funding did not win legislative approval.
Transportation officials have said that Texas needs to spend about $4 billion on roads to keep pace with growth.
The Texas Department of Transportation manages nearly 80,000 miles of roads and more than 50,000 bridges. Funding for projects comes partly from a 20-cents-a-gallon fuel tax that has not been raised since 1991, officials said.
An already-filed Senate plan would ask voters to approve directing nearly $1 billion from the state’s oil and gas tax revenues to highways rather than the rainy day fund.
Perry said earlier that he would consider adding other issues to the agenda of the special session, but only if there appeared to be some consensus for passage. Legislative leaders said Monday evening they expect an agreement can be reached on road funding.
Also Monday, 69 members of the Texas House — nearly half of its members — wrote Perry urging him to add the iniversity construction bonds to the special session agenda.
“In light of today’s historically low interest rates and the critical need for investment in our higher education facilities, it is vital that we address this issue without further delay,” the bipartisan group of representatives wrote.
During the regular session, the House approved $2.7 billion in bonds for construction projects and the Senate approved $2.4 billion. But becasuse they could not settle their differences before the session ended, no bonds were approved.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct how many miles of roads the Texas Department of Transportation manages.