Highway fund, Rainy Day fund receive hefty infusions


AUSTIN — State Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Nov. 29 announced the transfer of $1.47 billion into the State Highway Fund and the Economic Stabilization Fund, with $734 million going into each fund.

The transfer was enabled by Texas voters, who in the November 2014 constitutional amendment election passed a measure allocating at least half of the state’s oil and gas production severance taxes to the “Rainy Day Fund” and the remainder to the State Highway Fund for use on non-toll highway construction, maintenance and right-of-way acquisitions.

The transfer brought the new balance of the Rainy Day Fund to $10.98 billion. “The Rainy Day Fund is an important tool for our state because it allows us to maintain solid fiscal footing even during unforeseen circumstances, such as those our state encountered during Harvey,” Hegar said.

“The governor and Legislature will determine how best to use this important asset, but I think all Texans are glad this tool is in place. Similarly, the transfer into the State Highway Fund will continue to allow the state to address growing transportation needs to keep our economic engine running smoothly,” Hegar added.

Cognizant to open site

Gov. Greg Abbott on Nov. 30 announced Cognizant would open a new regional technology and service delivery center in Irving in early 2018.

Cognizant is a Fortune 500 multinational corporation providing information technology, consulting and business process services. The company has more than 3,600 employees in Texas.

The governor’s office made a Texas Enterprise Fund grant offer of $2.1 million to Cognizant and said the firm plans to create 1,090 new jobs based out of the new facility. The company made a capital investment of more than $8 million, according to the governor’s office.

Effort aims for safety

The Texas Department of Transportation on Nov. 30 said that during last year’s holiday season, about one in four deaths on Texas roadways were alcohol-related.

From Dec. 1 through Jan. 1 this year, TxDOT’s “Plan While You Can” campaign is reminding drivers to make planning a sober ride part of their holiday celebrations.

“Tragically, there are many families who experience the holidays without a loved one due to a drunk driver,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “We need to remember that each time someone dies or is seriously injured on our roadways, it affects a family and an entire community. Don’t make a bad decision that could cause heartache for your family and others. Make a plan to get home safely. It could save lives.”

In 2016, there were 2,321 alcohol-related crashes in Texas from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1. Those crashes killed 82 people and seriously injured another 199, TxDOT said.

Fund grows by billions

The State Board of Education on Nov. 30 announced that the Texas Permanent School Fund has reached a record high value of $41.44 billion.

Already the nation’s largest educational endowment, the Texas Permanent School Fund gained $4.16 billion in value in fiscal year 2016-2017, which ended Aug. 31.

“During the 2018-2019 biennium, the Permanent School Fund is projected to distribute $2.5 billion to Texas schools,” said State Board of Education member David Bradley, chair of the board’s Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund. “This is the largest distribution in the Fund’s 163-year history and is $400 million higher than the distribution made in the 2016-2017 biennium,” he added.

Paxton joins court briefs

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Dec. 1 announced that he has joined a 12-state effort led by West Virginia to defend the right of states to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Paxton said Texas also joined a 20-state coalition led by Wisconsin to prevent discriminatory abortion based on disability, gender and race.

“States have a valid interest in protecting the dignity of human life and defending human life at all stages of development. No society should tolerate brutal abortion procedures or killing an unborn child based on discriminatory beliefs regarding disability, gender or race,” Paxton said.

Trees go up in Capitol

House Speaker Joe Straus’s office on Nov. 27 announced the display of a 23-foot Christmas tree in the House Chamber. On Nov. 30, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced the display of a 24-foot Christmas tree in the Senate Chamber.

Ornaments from each of the state’s 150 House districts were used to decorate the House tree. Decorations from the Senate's 31 districts were used for the Senate tree.

Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.


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