Every legislative session seems to have its own personality — and lingo. The 81st will no doubt go down as the session of “these tough economic times” and “dire prediction.” For today’s dire prediction, Sen. John Carona served up the nightmare de jure that the state’s highway fund will be insufficient to expand capacity and even fall short of maintenance needs after 2012. Gathering up most of his Transportation committee and some business heavyweights — including Houston businessman and highway commissioner Ned Holmes — Carona made the case at a press conference this morning that the current gas tax needs to be augmented to keep up with growth in population, as well as trade and commerce. According to Holmes, Fund 6 has seen a decline in revenue of 3 percent in the last year and 8 percent in the last month (compared to the previous periods.) After 2012, there will be no cash for new projects. “None,” Sen. Eliot Shapleigh added for emphasis. “That is significant news.” The shortfall between revenue and identified, needed projects? Eight billion a year. No doubt the press conference — which also included HEB senior vice president Ken Allen’s comments on the cost of congestion to Texas businesses — was timed to coincide with debate today on Carona’s SB 855, the local option highway funding measure. Carona says he has more than enough votes and expected to pass the bill today, since he says he had an assurance from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst that he would be recognized. This morning, Dewhurst advised him the was not yet ready for the bill. “I don’t want to speculate,” was all Carona would say about Dewhurst’s change of heart. The bill has been promoted by the Hillco lobby team, but opposed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and other conservative groups. Carona predicted the bill will pass both Houses — Republicans have warmed to the idea because of its local control design — and says he has been personally assured by Gov. Rick Perry that it will not face a veto.
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