Today we continue the conversation with Public Affairs Research Council president Robert Travis Scott, looking into the proposed constitutional amendments on the October 14th ballot.
Amendment 3 sets up a new dedicated fund for transportation construction.
It would pull this money out of any new fuel tax that might be imposed. But legislators didn’t pass the gasoline tax this past spring – in fact, the measure was withdrawn before it could get a vote on the House floor.
“Why would we set up a fund like this, if we don’t have anything to put in it?” I asked Scott.
“I think the authors of this constitutional amendment wanted to do this prospectively, so that if there was a fuel tax increase in the future, this trust fund would be in place to establish more confidence that the new fuel tax really would be used for infrastructure,” Scott explains.
“They had ‘taken the trust out of the Trust Fund’, and that was the coined phrase that everybody has used, meaning a concern that the Department of Transportation wasn’t operating efficiently enough; all the infrastructure money was really going to salaries.”
“But in the PAR guide, you also point out that it’s the Legislature that has implemented utilization of the Transportation Trust Fund for salaries, and then turned around and cast aspersions on DOTD for using the money that way. How does that happen, Robert?” I ask, with a laugh.
“This is a really good point. I mean, we frequently see members of the Legislature criticize the Department of Transportation for its trust issues in handling the money,” Scott replies. “Yet it has been the Legislature itself, over the years, that has been most guilty of eroding the trust in the Trust Fund.”
In addition, Scott says, this amendment contradicts another of lawmakers’ favorite themes.
“We hear so many complaints about locking up the budget with dedications – you know, tying our hands with how we can spend money. Here there is another one,” he remarks. “Stop the dedications already.”
You the voters decide – October 14th.