Special to the Daily Progress

AUSTIN -- Faced with deteriorating pavement quality scores and growing congestion, the Texas Department of Transportation was required to return more than $742 million to the federal government Wednesday as part of an $8.708 billion rescission of highway project programming authority.

Rescissions, or reductions in the funding allotted by legislation, are not new. Historically, rescissions have been flexible, allowing states to decide which spending categories to reduce.

This allows TxDOT to limit their impact on the state's planned funding levels.

The language included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has made rescissions much less flexible. States must instead reduce each spending category by a specific amount, including the equity bonus category, which is designed to bring each state’s share of highway funding more in-line with the proportion of gas tax dollars paid into the system by that state. This results in a reduction in Texas’ obligation authority and causes TxDOT to award fewer contracts.

“In the past, we’ve worked hard to minimize the impact of rescissions on Texas drivers,” TxDOT’s Chief Financial Officer James Bass said. “For this rescission, however, the limited flexibility offered and sheer magnitude of it has translated into our ability to award contracts being reduced at a time when our communities need transportation funding to improve mobility and enhance economic opportunity.”

Congress attempted to repeal the rescission while extending the current surface transportation program, also known as SAFETEA-LU. Their efforts were unsuccessful.

As part of this rescission, Texas was required to return $1.9 million to make up for a shortfall in the amount to be returned from the state of Nevada. Prior to this rescission.

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