Waking up to news you suddenly have $2 billion more than you thought would welcome for most of us. But most of us aren’t the Texas Department of Transportation, a critical state agency that nonetheless can’t seem to drive a straight fiscal line.

State Rep. David Simpson of Longview is quoted by the Texas Tribune as saying an “agency that can miss a billion dollars then find a billion dollars has got some problems.”

He was referring, of course, to TxDOT infamously miscounting $1.1 billion back in 2007.

In the agency’s defense comes TxDOT’s chief financial officer, James Bass:

“Two billion dollars is a lot of money… When put into the context of the overall transportation needs of the state, it’s not as large as one might think.”

Yeah, but even then it’s a lot of money. The legislature budgeted nearly $20 billion for transportation in the 2012-2013 budget.

Well, $2 billion is 10 percent of the biennial budget, and for most taxpayers that is certainly anything but inconsequential.

Whatever the agency of government, before clamoring for more funds they should instead make sure they are spending, and correctly accounting for, every dollar they are already given.

The legislature doesn’t help, by diverting large portions of the dedicated gas-tax to things other than road and bridge construction and maintenance — the constitutional reason for the tax in the first place.

Predictably, State Rep. Joe Picket — the Democrat who served one session as Straus’ chairman heading up the transportation committee — wants more money and has publicly supported hiking the gasoline tax. (The transportation committee is currently chaired by Republican State Rep. Larry Phillips of Sherman, who in 2009 opposed a move to protect Texans from an increase in gas taxes.)

TxDOT may have found $2 billion in new money, but is sounds like the same old problem.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."


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