American-Statesman 5:29 p.m. 5/14/14 By Ben Wear

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, laying down his marker early in what could be a spirited debate in the 2015 Legislature about transportation funding, said Wednesday that his chamber’s next budget will direct money from the state highway fund exclusively to the Texas Department of Transportation.
In other words, the House, if it follows the speaker’s lead, would end “diversions” from highway spending, providing about $1.3 billion more for TxDOT during the next two-year budget cycle. Legislative budget writers, in that case, would have to find an equivalent amount in general state revenue to make up the lost money for the Department of Public Safety, Department of Motor Vehicles, the Texas Transportation Institute, and a handful of other purposes.
“This approach will make the state budget even more straightforward, just as taxpayers expect,” Straus said in a statement.
Whether that spending constitutes a true diversion of transportation money — most of it generated by gas and diesel taxes — is a matter of debate. That money for the DPS, for instance, amounts to less than a third of the agency’s two-year budget, and some argue that having troopers patrolling the highways is a legitimate transportation function. Similarly, the $71 million allocated to the motor vehicles agency is money that in fact would have been TxDOT spending just a few years ago before legislators created the new agency. And the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, with $17 million in diversions, works closely with TxDOT on research in the field.

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