after Perry threatened a veto.
"We generally agree with the governor, but on this, we respectfully disagree," Hammond said.
Carona, chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, did not mention Perry by name. But he said he was frustrated that with some Texas leaders, politics trumps policy.
"We've seen an environment where personal political ambition has gone ahead of good public policy," he said. "We just cannot afford that kind of politicization."
But Perry's spokesman said the governor stepped up to the plate by supporting constitutional amendments for water and roads.
"In order to continue our state's economic momentum, we needed to take bold steps this session to allow us to keep up with our growing population and the need to move an increasing amount of goods to market," Havens said, later adding that with voter approval, the legislation "creates a new funding mechanism to support water-supply projects over the next 50 years and identifies a long-term funding source that provides approximately a billion dollars each year for transportation.
"Most importantly, all of this was accomplished without raising taxes. As the governor said, this sends the strong message that Texas knows how to keep the wheels of commerce moving while protecting the taxpayers of this state."
Pickett said some of Texas' road and water-funding problems pre-date the governor.
In 2003, two years into Perry's governorship, Pickett authored Proposition 14, in which voters authorized the state to issue $6 billion in transportation debt.
"The reason we did that was to play catch-up," Pickett said, explaining that the state's needs had become so great that revenue increases weren't enough to address them.
For example, a penny increase in the gasoline tax is estimated to generate an additional $100 million a year -- not much compared to the $5 billion a year Houghton says is necessary to unclog Texas roads.
Since then, the Legislature has put more road projects on the credit card instead of finding new revenue. In 2009, it issued $5 billion in additional transportation bonds and then authorized debt on top of that, Pickett said.
All told, the measures max out the state's $17 billion debt capacity for its highways, Pickett, former chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said.
"We've been living on borrowed funds," he said.
Houghton said Texas highway funding has fallen victim to strong anti-tax forces in the Legislature.
"Just to say no to everything is irresponsible government," he said.
The rise of the Tea Party movement in 2010 has been identified with the latest push to cut government spending and slash payrolls.
But Michael Openshaw, co-founder of the North Texas Tea Party, said his group is not to blame for political leaders' difficulty in finding money for infrastructure needs such as water and transportation.
He said his group hasn't taken a position on the constitutional amendment for water funding that will appear on this November's ballot -- much less the transportation amendment that will be on the ballot in 2014. He said he had his doubts, however, that Texas needs $2 billion for water projects.
"Water is essential, but you can't make water out of money," Openshaw said.
In terms of the annual billions officials say they need for roads, Openshaw said he would need to be convinced the state had rooted out waste, fraud and abuse elsewhere before he would support a tax increase.
"If you do a full, business-style analysis, you will find billions," he said.
Openshaw said waste likely could be found in the state's Health and Human Services budget, but it was unclear that if any was found, it would amount to more than a fraction of what officials say the state's infrastructure needs are.
Openshaw also said he would want the transportation department to find the kinds of efficiencies that would result in job cuts before he would support a tax increase.
"This is a small thing, but you tell me we need $4 billion, but you're building rest areas with staffing that makes them look like tourist-information centers," he said.
Pickett built a provision into the measure that passed earlier this month that requires the transportation department to find $100 million in annual efficiencies and use the money to pay off debt.
Similarly, he said that in 2015, as lawmakers try to find new road funds, a wise first move would be to earmark any new money to retire existing road debt.
"If they want to be conservative, they can start by attacking the debt," he said.
As lawmakers seek new funds under a new governor, Perry is not likely to pay much of a political price for the state's infrastructure problems if he seeks the GOP presidential nomination, said Henson, the University of Texas political scientist.
Texas might be "an outpost on the far-right of the national Republican Party," but passage this year of the water and transportation measures will give Perry cover as he tries to soften his image for a national audience, Henson said.
Marty Schladen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 512-479-6606.
(c)2013 El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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