End of special session nears; Transportation funding still up in the air

End of special session nears; Transportation funding still up in the air
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POSTED: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 6:44am

UPDATED: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 6:45am

A major blow to a transportation plan has left the Legislature teetering on the edge of a third special session.

A day before the end of the second special session, a deal on the only item left on lawmakers' agenda — transportation funding — fell 16 votes short in the state House, where it needed 100 to pass.

Aimed at financing the state's dire road construction needs, the deal would have raised about $900 million annually for the Texas Department of Transportation by diverting some future revenue currently intended for the Rainy Day Fund into the state highway fund. But a contentious provision intended to help maintain the Rainy Day Fund's balance proved too divisive, drawing bipartisan opposition.

After the measure failed, its lead sponsor, state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, urged Gov. Rick Perry not to immediately call lawmakers back but to instead wait until next year, after the 2014 primaries, as the Tribune's Aman Batheja reported.

House Speaker Joe Straus appeared to back Pickett's call for a break, saying in a statement: "Legislators know that Texas needs a much more comprehensive approach to funding our growing state’s growing transportation needs, and another 30-day special session will not change that."

On Monday, Perry, who has threatened to bring legislators back if no measure is passed, made no mention of a third special session but denounced lawmakers who opposed the deal.

"Legislators have been in Austin for nearly seven months now, and to go home without dealing with one of the most pressing issues facing all Texans is simply unacceptable," Perry said in a statement.

Both chambers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday at 2 p.m. Though the measure could still clear the Senate, Pickett said it wouldn't get another shot in the House.

"We're done. That's it," he said. "I wouldn't even try to put my colleagues through that."

Click here for the original report by The Texas Tribune.

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