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New view of bond language

Friday, August 1, 2014 by Michael Kanin

City Council watchers and those with a particular interest in the upcoming transportation election have been expecting a ballot item that includes $600 million for rail and an additional $400 million for road improvements. The language currently floating around City Hall would provide for both but in a different way than many had anticipated. It begins with approval of issuance of $600 million in bonds for rail systems, etc., with a requirement that the city obtains “match funding or financial assistance …from one or more public or private sources.” So, as Mayor Lee Leffingwell has been saying, if the city does not get federal funds in the same amount (or some other source), then the city would not issue the bonds. In addition, the city would provide funding of “not less than $400 million” for transportation projects “of regional significance that are designed to relieve congestion” in various corridors, including I-35, US 183 and RM 620, FM 1626 and FM 2222, Parmer, Lamar Boulevard and Loop 360 corridors, and levy a tax to pay for that. That authority would give the City Council flexibility to issue certificates of obligation. “The proposal is a billion dollars but we don’t need a billion dollars of bond authorization to spend that,” said Council Member Bill Spelman, because some of the funds could come from cash and some could come from previous bond authorizations. “We’re making a promise we’re going to spend $400 million in these corridors,” he said. In order to do that, he said, voters must approve the bond proposition and the federal government (or some private benefactor) must provide the other $600 million for the rail system.

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