An abdication of fiscal restraint: Rainy day roads

Texas Politics reported this week that members of the “Senate Finance Committee meeting in Austin Wednesday were generally supportive of a plan to direct money from oil production tax revenues to road rehab and construction.”

The committee did not approve the plan by Sens. Tommy Williams and Robert Nichols but most “generally spoke in favor of the idea to take money now going to the state’s rainy fund and use it to fix Texas roads,” the report said.

Senator Nichols estimates that based on 2013 figures redirecting half of the money going into the rainy day fund will give the Texas Department of Transportation about $900 million a year. “It would go straight into the core highway fund,” Nichols said, according to Texas Politics.

All of this may sound fine and good until you consider other points.

First, there is a significant amount of money that is already supposed to go to transportation that is still being diverted. That should be fixed before any new pipeline of funds is established for TxDOT which, according to many, may be more in need of agency reform than more money at present.

And second, and most important, what is happening with legislators who all seem to think the Economic Stabilization Fund is always going to be growing and is a piggy bank to raid when they desire to spend more?

The fund itself was created in recognition of how volatile the oil and gas business is. To consider as accurate projections of how much money will be present in the fund in future years is folly to the point of stupidity.

Also, the language creating the fund specifically says that it is only to be used to cover unexpected shortfalls in revenue. So, how have these supposed fiscal-conservatives turned it into a pile of money they can use to spend on additional projects?

The entire ordeal seems absurd and an abdication of all claims of being fiscally responsible.

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