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Emergency Management 11


Recommendation

Texas should amend the Texas Constitution to allow the Legislature the flexibility to fund improved transportation safety from the State Highway Fund.


Summary

The Texas Constitution should be amended to allow spending on needed transportation safety operations and physical improvements related to safety for airports, train stations, ports and international bridges. Current state law limits Legislative spending of the highway portion of fuel tax revenue and motor vehicle registration fees to specific activities related to highways. Texas uses transportation revenue for transportation safety purposes, such as funding the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to patrol highways and to license drivers.


Texas Transportation System

Texas’ 79,000-mile state highway system is the largest in the country. The state has numerous other forms of transportation that move people and goods that are not Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) direct responsibility, although in 1991, the Legislature directed TxDOT to include all modes of transportation when developing a statewide transportation plan.[1] There are 28 commercial airports in the state, including major hubs in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso. There are also 286 general aviation airports.[2] There are more than 10,000 miles of railroad line. Along the coast, there are 12 deep-draft ports and another 15 shallow-draft ports.[3] Along the border there are 23 international bridges,[4] all of which may need increased security. All of this infrastructure connects to the highway system to provide the state’s transportation system.

TxDOT officials have said they do not yet know what the effect of the September 11 attacks will be on their budget. Current state security efforts are being covered by appropriations from the regular budget approved by the Legislature. At this point state agencies have not detailed any estimates and the Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security has made no recommendations regarding funding needs, but there may be greatly increased funding needed for transportation safety in the future. One possible funding need might be increasing the number of DPS troopers and having them perform duties other than highway patrol.

Congress funded improved transportation safety in 2001, but the details are not final. House Resolution 2888, passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizes $40 billion for several purposes, including increased transportation security. The bill calls for Office of Management and Budget to develop spending plans. The airline industry has called for federalization of airport security but Congress has not taken final action on that request.

Texas does spend Fund 6 money on transportation safety today. DPS was appropriated $277 million from Fund 6, or over three-quarters of its $364 million budget for 2002.[5] Major transportation related items in the DPS budget include highway patrol and driver licensing.


Legislative Changes Required

Article 8, Section 7-a and Article 8, Section 7-b of the Texas Constitution should be amended to allow the Legislature to appropriate state transportation funds to improve transportation safety on transportation infrastructure other than highways.


Fiscal Impact

The amounts that agencies such as TxDOT, DPS or other agencies might request to meet increased demands or for new programs suggested by the Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security cannot be estimated.

Of 7,246 employee positions at DPS, 1,873 are dedicated to highway patrol.[6] According to DPS, each additional trooper would cost $117,500 including money for training, vehicles, travel, salary and other expenses.[7] Adding another 500 troopers would cost $58.7 million or about 1 percent of the State Highway Fund’s annual $5.4 billion in revenue. However, there would be no net cost to the State Highway Fund since funding would only be shifted to new priority projects.


[1] Testimony by Robert L, Nichols, Texas Transportation Commission, before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs and Texas Senate Committee on Border Affairs, Austin, Texas, July 11, 2000.

[2] Telephone interview with Marie Peinado, Aviation Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, October 16, 2001.

[3] Dallas Morning News, Texas Almanac 2000-2001, Mary G. Ramos, ed., p. 599.

[4] Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, State Functions at the Texas-Mexico Border and Cross Border Transportation (Austin, Texas, January 2001), p. 6.

[5] Texas S.B. 1, 77th Leg. Reg. Sess. (2001), p. V-45.

[6] Texas S.B. 1, 77th Leg. Reg. Sess. (2001), pps. V-46, V-54.

[7] Telephone interview with Reggie McGee, Budget Division, Texas Department of Public Safety, Austin, Texas, October 17, 2001.