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Rep. Simmons, Ron

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by: Rep. Simmons, Ron

HB 373 Provides $20 Billion More For Roads Without Increasing Any Taxes or Fees

AUSTIN – State Representative Ron Simmons laid out House Bill 373 in the House Transportation Committee hearing on Thursday, April 9, 2015. If passed, HB 373 has the potential to add $20 billion to the state highway fund (SHF) by 2021.

“House Bill 373 addresses the state's transportation infrastructure funding problems and maintains our important focus on prioritized spending and budget transparency,” Simmons said while laying the bill out in committee. “The bill proposes to move 1/6 of motor vehicle sales, rental and use taxes collected each year into the SHF until 100 percent of the collections are deposited in the state highway fund by 2021.”

Currently, the majority of motor vehicle sales tax collections go into the state's general revenue fund, with portions of the revenue going to the property tax relief fund (PTRF) and the Texas emissions reduction plan (TERP) account. HB 373 amends Section 152.122, Tax Code to allocate a percentage of the revenue from motor vehicle sales, rental and use tax collections to the state highway fund (SHF). The portion of the collections not dedicated to the SHF each year would go into the general revenue fund.

A House Joint Resolution proposing to constitutionally dedicate the fund to transportation does not accompany House Bill 373. This is unlike many similar legislative proposals being considered during the 84th Legislative Session.

“I chose not to address this issue with a Constitutional amendment,” Simmons said to his fellow Transportation Committee members. “If the funds are constitutionally dedicated, then future legislators will be limited in their flexibility and ability to debate spending priorities. By only statutorily dedicating these funds, HB 373 gives future legislatures the flexibility to amend the code and prioritize spending as necessary.”

However, HB 373 does include some restrictions on how future legislators will be able to spend these funds. The bill stipulates that the revenue from motor vehicle sales, rental and use tax collections deposited in the SHF cannot be used for toll roads, rail transportation, or trolleys.

“Providing a safe and stable transportation system is a core function of government,” Simmons said as he concluded his remarks to the committee. “HB 373 proposes to use a sensible revenue source, motor vehicle sales tax collections, to address this core function.”

Ben Lancaster

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