The Third Coast Initiative seeks to increase economic development throughout the state following expansion of our Texas Gulf (The Third Coast, after West and East Coast) seaports and the supporting railroads, docks, cranes and roads necessary to handle the additional movement of freight occasioned by the expansion of the Panama Canal, which allows the giant post-Panamax ships to transit the Canal, which began in June 2016.
Texas currently spends almost no money on Texas ports, leaving it to local government entities to pay for with local taxes, while other states on the Gulf Coast are dredging their shallow ports deeper, and making other capital improvements to handle huge ships laden with containers for retail stores, primarily from Asia, and enable U.S. exports to transit the Canal. The Texas Senate has appointed a Select Committee on Ports, and some members recently traveled to Panama with TEX-21 to study the Canal expansion firsthand.
Almost certainly, toll roads and Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) funding opportunities that TxDOT has used in the past will not be allowed going forward, leaving Texas with a deficit in maintenance and new road construction. To fill this enormous gap, TEX-21 has conceived an idea embraced by both sides of the aisle called ERE's that will NOT be a new tax, will not reduce current state or local revenues, and does NOT require tolls or reduction of the "rainy day fund" to be effective. We focus on the Commerce of Transportation and the growth of future state revenues to pay for projects.
If created by the Legislature, an ERE would allow TxDOT to develop new highway projects by creating state sales tax increment zones around transportation projects for funding. This way, the future state-portion only of sales tax growth would pay for the project. After a period of time the state sales tax growth would revert to the general fund as it does now. TEX-21 members created this idea, and have done sales tax research to show the Legislature how beneficial this approach will be.
TEX-21 is also researching the opportunity to preserve right of way (ROW) for future transportation projects without additional cost and without constituting a taking, so that there would be less need to condemn land or purchase land already developed. This approach would allow cities, counties, and the state to preserve right of way before development happens and impedes a needed road or highway expansion, or makes it more expensive to acquire. If the transportation project is not developed within a set period of time, then the ROW would be released for use to the owner. TEX-21 is looking for a solution that would be mutually beneficial to the land owner/developer and to the State.
Property Taxes Initiative
With the public desire to limit property tax growth in Texas, TEX-21 is committed to working with the Legislature to make sure sensible proposals are discussed in the upcoming Legislative session that will help and not harm TEX-21 members.