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Better Know Your Ballot: Prop 7's Texas Road Funding Fix

Traffic on I-35 could be a headache this weekend, because of work at Ben White Blvd. So TxDOT is making parts of the toll road network toll-free this Saturday to relieve the stress.
Image by Callie Hernandez for KUT News
Proposition 7 would increase the amount of money taken from the state's motor vehicle registration tax to go towards road improvements in Texas.

Early voting starts today for the Nov. 3 election, and over the past few weeks, we’ve been taking a closer look at each of the seven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on the statewide ballot.
We wrap up today with Proposition 7, which, if you drive a car or commute to work on Texas roads, might be the most important proposition on the ballot.

If passed, Prop 7 would increase state transportation funding by $2.5 billion dollars a year. It does that without raising taxes or fees. Instead, it skims off part of the state's already-collected motor vehicle sales tax. Jacksonville Republican State Sen. Robert Nichols is one of the propositions top cheerleaders, and its author. He says its passage would be the last step in a three-step plan to increase transportation funding.

“The first piece of that puzzle was Proposition 1, which the public approved last November at 80 percent positive,” Nichols says. “The second step was during the budget writing this session, we eliminated all diversions, money for highways that was used for other purposes – that's $700 million. That was the second step.”

If voters approve the third step in November, The Texas Department of Transportation will end up with about $2.5 billion dollars each year in 2018 and 2019, but that amount could go up to $3 billion in 2020.

While the money helps, none of the three steps address the reason for the funding shortfall: The state's gas tax hasn't been increased in more than 20 years. Inflation and fuel efficiency have eroded the tax’s buying power. But, even if this doesn't provide TxDOT with all it needs to catch up with road needs in a rapidly growing state, supporters say they'd rather have something instead of nothing.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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