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Texas Votes to Keep Old Road Spending Habits

Lots of dollar signs were flying around on Texas ballots last week, many of which were headed toward road construction measures. The Houston Chronicle, however, points out the shortcomings of the state's patterns of investment.
November 9, 2015, 1pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Dug Begley provides less-than-complimentary commentary on the suite of transportation funding measures on the ballot last week in Texas.

"By huge margins," reports Begley to open the article, "voters Tuesday seized on every opportunity they had to give local and state officials authority to fix ailing highways and county roads. These results, many said, reflect frustration with congestion and a willingness to authorize spending for transportation projects – as long as they don’t directly take more money from voters' pockets."

Voters in Harris and Montgomery counties approved massive road bond measures, of $700 million and $280 million, respectively. Bonds mean borrowing, as Begley points out. "Moreover, the spending is narrowly focused on roads rather than other transportation improvements. Tollways and transit projects were excluded, leaving advocates of public transit and compact development frustrated," adds Begley.

The problem at the state level, according to Begley, is that in its rush to prevent any new taxes, Texas is playing a shell game: "Prop. 7, which passed with more than 80 percent of the vote, moves sales tax money to transportation. That ultimately leaves state legislators less to spend on other government functions."

The article goes on to describe in some detail the current political climate surrounding questions of transportation spending. While car-centric investments are the status quo, public transit has made small gains, with sometimes mixed reviews. Begley closes by noting that officials in the Houston area have already planned for the funding Prop 7 will bring, "[b]ut only time will tell how long those solutions will last before voters demand another round of relief, and whether that set of solutions look a lot like the past ones."

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Published on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 in Houston Chronicle
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