TxDOT Wants Billions More For Roads; Lawmaker Wants Billions For Water

AUSTIN (January 10, 2013)—Gov. Rick Perry and House and Senate leaders are vowing to hold down spending as the Legislature begins its 2013 session, but there are already requests for billions of dollars in new funding.

The Texas Department of Transportation's executive director, Phil Wilson, said Thursday the agency needs $1 billion a year more to keep up with road maintenance and an additional $3 billion a year to deal with growing congestion on roadways.

Wilson said he would let the Legislature decide how to increase road funding and did not support any specific ideas.

TxDOT relies on a 20-cents-a-gallon fuel tax that hasn't been raised since 1991.

State officials say they'll soon run out of money for any construction or expansion without changes.

Meanwhile state Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, is proposing Texas spend $2 billion to implement a sweeping plan to ensure the drought-prone state has enough water for its rapidly expanding population.

He filed two bills Thursday that would double the amount of money Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst proposed spending on water projects.

Ritter, R-Nederland, proposes taking $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to bolster infrastructure, including new dams and reservoirs, as outlined in the State Water Plan. Nederland is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Every five years, Texas reports on the state's water needs for 50 years and proposes solutions, but the plans are unfunded, and a two-year drought has made water a hot topic.

House Speaker Joe Straus says water will be a priority this legislative session.

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