David Ball – For The Record

There may be a new way for funding the State Highway Fund if State Sen. Robert Nichols’ efforts are successful.

Proposition 7 will be on the ballot for constitutional amendments for the Nov. 3, 2015 election.

The following are a series of press releases from Nichols’ office on the timeline of the 2015 Texas Legislative session and Proposition 7:

Proposition 7 – Funding Transportation Infrastructure

“As Texas’ population continues to grow, we must work to ensure adequate funding is available to preserve and expand our transportation infrastructure. Two years ago, transportation planners projected the need for $5 billion per year in additional revenues to maintain current levels of congestion. Over 80 percent of Texans supported a transportation funding measure in November 2014 to help close that gap, but it only took Texas partway down the road.

Funding transportation is a core function of government and the Legislature took a big step towards addressing this problem by overwhelmingly passing Senate Joint Resolution 5, a resolution I filed to dedicate funding to our state’s non-tolled roads and bridges. Texans will have an opportunity to vote on this constitutional amendment, which will appear as Proposition 7 on the ballot, during the November 3, 2015 election.

Proposition 7 would invest $2.5 billion per year to build non-tolled roads and bridges in Texas.  By 2025, that amount is expected to grow to $3.5 billion per year. The measure would constitutionally dedicate a portion of the existing state sales taxes – including taxes paid on new vehicles – to non-tolled roads and bridges, meaning no new taxes would be created. If passed by voters, this legislation will be the largest single increase in transportation funding in Texas history, without issuing debt.”

Nichols Files Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Bill

State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) held a press conference with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to discuss the filing of Senate Bill 5 and Senate Joint Resolution 5, which will constitutionally dedicate a portion of the existing sales tax on new and used automobiles to the State Highway Fund.

“Without adequate and dependable resources, The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will continue to face challenges in constructing and maintaining Texas’ highway infrastructure,” said Nichols. “I appreciate the support of Lt. Governor Patrick on this bill and look forward to continuing our work towards providing adequate transportation infrastructure for Texans.”

Nichols believes there are five critical elements the Legislature should look for when identifying additional funding sources for transportation. These include ensuring the funding is (1) predictable, (2) constitutionally dedicated, (3) transportation related (4) independent of fuel source and (5) able to adjust to inflation. This state motor vehicles sales tax is a revenue stream which meets all of these qualities.

“This is an issue I advocated for during the campaign that received strong support from the voters,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

Conservative forecasts for this revenue stream state it will generate over $2 billion annually. If approved, this proposal will give TxDOT a predictable revenue stream which they can use to implement long-range transportation plans.

“Transportation infrastructure is a core function of government and its funding should be addressed. What could make more sense than to dedicate the tax on a vehicle, you currently pay, to the infrastructure on which it depends upon? Without roads you don’t need cars, and without cars you don’t need roads,” states Nichols.

In the Texas Senate, Nichols serves as chairman for the Transportation Committee. He also serves on the Senate Finance, Natural Resources and Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committees. He is a member of the Legislative Audit Committee and a former vice chairman of the Sunset Advisory Committee.

‘Double Nichols’ passes in the Texas Senate

The Texas Senate approved Senator Robert Nichols’ (R-Jacksonville) Senate Bill 5 and Senate Joint Resolution 5, which will constitutionally dedicate a portion of the existing sales tax on new and used automobiles to the State Highway Fund.

“Transportation infrastructure is a core function of government and its funding should be addressed,” said Nichols. “By dedicating a source of funding which is predictable, constitutionally dedicated, transportation related , independent of fuel source and able to adjust to inflation, we can continue to construct and maintain Texas’ highway infrastructure.”

This bill authorizes that each fiscal year,  the first $2.5 billion in vehicle sales tax revenue to be put into the state’s general fund. The next $2.5 billion collected would go to the State Highway Fund, to be used for the states highway infrastructure. Any revenue collected beyond $5 billion a year would be split with 50 percent going to the State Highway Fund, 20 percent to education and 30 percent to the general fund.

Use of these dedicated funds in the State Highway Fund would be limited to the acquisition of right of ways, construction and maintenance of non-tolled roads and bridges. If approved, this proposal will give the Texas Department of Transportation a predictable revenue stream which they can use to implement long-range transportation plans.

As this is a constitutional amendment, it must pass each chamber with a two-thirds majority. If successful, citizens will then see it on the ballot in November 2016.

“I am thankful to Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick and my colleagues in the Legislature for their support,” said Nichols. “Our state’s economy and much more depends upon having a safe and reliable road system.”

Nichols, a former Texas transportation commissioner, currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He has been working on Texas transportation issues in various capacities since 1997.

Nichols Passes Legislation to Dedicate Billions to Texas Roads

The Texas Legislature approved Senator Robert Nichols’ (R-Jacksonville) Senate Joint Resolution 5, which will constitutionally dedicate approximately $3 billion per year to the State Highway Fund (SHF). As this is a constitutional amendment, it will be sent to the voters in November 2015.

“I am thankful to Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick and my colleagues in the Legislature for their support,” said Nichols. “If passed by the voters, this legislation will be the largest single increase in transportation funding in Texas history.”

This constitutional amendment will dedicate a deposit of $2.5 billion per year to the SHF, to build non tolled roads and bridges, as long as our state’s economy continues to grow.

In addition, each fiscal year beginning in 2020, 35 percent of all Motor Vehicle Sales, Use and Rental Taxes revenues, in excess of $5 billion, will be deposited into the SHF for the same use.

It is estimated the combination of these deposits will grow to approximately $4 billion per year within 15 years, adjusting for population growth and inflation. In addition, there are protections in place to ensure that in times of recession, the Legislature has the ability to reduce a portion of these deposits by a 2/3 vote of both chambers.   

“With the progress the 83rd Legislature made, the overwhelming support from the voters on Proposition 1 last November, this sessions budget and SJR 5, the State’s transportation funding is going to be where it needs to be in the future,” said Nichols.

Use of these dedicated funds in the State Highway Fund would be limited to non-tolled roads and bridges. If approved, this proposal will give the Texas Department of Transportation a predictable revenue stream which they can use to implement long-range transportation plans.

Nichols, a former Texas transportation commissioner, currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He has worked on Texas transportation issues in various capacities since 1997.

Nichols Says 84th Legislation Session a Success

The 84th Legislative Session came to a close, marking another successful session for the people of Texas, according to Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville).

“Serving the people of Senate District 3 has been one of the greatest honors of my life,” said Nichols. “Working with my colleagues in the Legislature, I believe we passed legislation this session which will be beneficial to East Texas and the State of Texas.”

Nichols is a first time member of the Senate Finance Committee that determines the state’s budget for the next biennium. The Legislature finalized and approved a $209.4 billion budget which will boost funding for border security, public schools and roads in the state. They also approved $3.8 billion in business and property tax relief for the people of Texas

“I want to thank Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for his strong leadership and for entrusting me with the chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee,” said Nichols. “While it is impossible to address every issue in a single session, he pursued an agenda to help meet the needs of all Texans.”

As Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Senator Nichols worked with other members of the Legislature to pass legislation which will constitutionally dedicate approximately $3 billion per year to the State Highway Fund for non-tolled roads and bridges. This constitutional amendment will be sent to the voters for approval in November 2015.

“If passed by the voters, this legislation will be the largest single increase in transportation funding in Texas history,” said Nichols. “With the progress we have made throughout the past couple of years, the State’s transportation funding is going to be where it needs to be in the future.”

Other legislative highlights include:

Providing support for mental health in the state including veterans and supporting mental health workforce training programs

$3.7 billion in new appropriations for transportation

$800 million in border security funding

Open Carry – allowing properly credentialed individuals to openly carry handguns

Approximately $ 3 billion in combined additional funding for public education and higher education

$3 billion in Tuition Revenue Bonds for Higher Education Institution projects

$130 million in pre-kindergarten grant funding for High Quality Pre-K

SJR 22 stating that Texans have a constitutional right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife by the use of traditional methods.

SB 1457 – Protection for patent holders from those who would send a bad faith claim of patent infringement, also known as patent trolls.

Increased funding for women’s health services