Texas makes it fairly easy to vote early; the polls are even open on Sunday. So after church, I stopped by and cast my vote.
As usual, I voted for those I believe will support a small government. Or at least not growing it as fast as possible.
On the ballot is a state-wide Proposition
“The constitutional amendment providing for the use and dedication of certain money transferred to the state highway fund to assist in the completion of transportation construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation projects, not to include toll roads.”
Let’s look at what the Proposition does and then I’ll explain why I voted against it.
The additional transportation money would come from directing a portion of the state’s annual oil and gas production tax collections to the State Highway Fund. Currently, the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) receives 75 percent of the state’s annual oil and gas production tax collections that exceed the amount collected in fiscal year 1987, when it was created. If approved by voters, half of the money currently destined for the ESF would be dedicated to the State Highway Fund. The remaining half would continue to build the unspent balance of the ESF. According to estimates from the Texas Comptroller, if voters approved the Constitutional Amendment $1.7 billion would be transferred in to the State Highway Fund in the first year alone.
Okay….First reason is right there — it takes money that is supposed to be dedicated to the Economic Stabilization or “Rainy Day” Fund and directs it to transportation projects such as roads and bridges.
(c) Not later than the 90th day of each fiscal year, the comptroller of public accounts shall transfer from the general revenue fund to the economic stabilization fund and the state highway fund the sum of the amounts described [
prescribed] by Subsections (d) and (e) of this section, to be allocated as provided by Subsections (c-1) and (c-2) of this section. However, if necessary and notwithstanding the allocations prescribed by Subsections (c-1) and (c-2) of this section, the comptroller shall reduce proportionately the amounts described by Subsections (d) and (e) of this section to be transferred and allocated to the economic stabilization fund to prevent the amount in that [ the] fund from exceeding the limit in effect for that biennium under Subsection (g) of this section.Revenue transferred to the state highway fund under this subsection may be used only for constructing, maintaining, and acquiring rights-of-way for public roadways other than toll roads.
Breaking down the politician weasel wording; Each legislative session the politicians would vote for a ‘floor’ on how little money has to stay in the Rainy Day fund and then split any money (remaining above and beyond that) and new money into the Rainy Day fund and the State Highway fund.
So letting the politicians decide how much we should keep in the rainy day fund is a bad thing (more on this later). Related to this is the tendency of politicians to vote against appropriating the necessary amount of money for the important projects and then use other money to prop it up.
Sorry folks, if the State Highway fund isn’t getting enough money; the answer is simple; either vote for more taxes or stop spending money wastefully.
The constitutional amendment would provide significant progress in addressing the state’s unmet transportation needs by providing $1.7 billion in the first year alone. However, this amendment alone does not “solve” Texas’ transportation funding challenge. Experts say Texas has at least $5 billion in unmet transportation needs each year. This measure is expected to provide $1.7 billion annually to address these transportation needs.
Yeah, won’t come anywhere close to solving the problem but it would siphon even more money off from the Rainy Day fund. Yes, this is the final problem — the Rainy Day fund is a political slush fund that politicians tap on a regular basis and it needs to stop. NOW.
I feel we need to vote against every transfer of money out of that account. I think we need to hold politicians accountable for its depletion. Our recent history in the last 5 to 10 years shows how rocky the economy can be. We need to be prepared, as individuals and as a polity, to weather uncertain or hard times.
So, that is why I voted against it.
What do you folks think; would you vote for or against?