Texas Two-Step: D.C. reauthorization first, then Austin

(Photo: Shawn Yates / Flickr)(Photo: Shawn Yates / Flickr)

As we begin to close in on the fall 2014 date for the reauthorization of federal surface transportation legislation in Washington, keep in mind that states have to do their own transportation legislation. And like D.C. politicians, Austin politicians face the continuing dilemma of not having enough money coming down the pike.

Take Texas for example.

The Lone Star State has legislation pending, but its provisions would not deliver enough funding to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). As the Texas Tribune says, “the leading transportation proposal would only reduce TxDOT’s financing shortfall, not erase it. Whether or not it passes, the agency’s financial woes are likely to loom larger than ever when lawmakers convene for their next regular legislative session in 2015.”

And, also from the Tribune, “Finding other revenue streams to finance road construction and maintenance was a top legislative goal this year. Yet many lawmakers refused to support proposals that involved raising taxes or fees or increasing public debt.” Déjà vu again?

MAP-21 gave states more authority and more wiggle room. But that’s with federal dollars. States still face a shortfall and need to find ways to raise in-state funds. It’s a situation that is unlikely to change since neither the feds nor the states are expecting any income windfalls.

We have seen states in recent times begin to find ways to raise money, and the pace is picking up. It would seem that the state of the highway funding game in Texas is going to sound familiar to a lot of states.

And I would be remiss and out of character if I didn’t urge highway contractors to keep the pressure on state and federal representatives. It works. Sometimes it’s hard to see the result of pushing them, but it does work. And it sure beats letting them decide future highway bills without feeling you and their other voters breathing down their necks on this issue.