Texas lawmakers hear HB 3899 testimony that could derail Project Connect

Texas lawmakers are considering legislation that could derail Project Connect, the multi-billion dollar mass transit plan for rail and bus services in Austin.

The House Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee heard testimony on House Bill 3899, filed by Rep. Ellen Troxclair, from Austin.

HB 3899 would require an election before a local government corporation borrows a large amount of money.

In 2020, Austin voters overwhelmingly approved a property tax increase to fund Project Connect, which is being built by the Austin Transit Partnership, a local government corporation.

Supporters of the bill say Austin leaders misled voters about Project Connect, and voters should have a voice regarding bond debt. Opponents say voters shouldn't have to approve an infrastructure project twice, and the bill could put other infrastructure projects around Texas in jeopardy. 

"Regardless of this project, regardless of where you are on rail, or any of these other things, what I want is consistency in our state law when it comes to taxation and bonds," said Troxclair.

"They voted for a revenue stream that would be dedicated for the long-term for both maintenance and obligation and multiple bond issuances," said Patrick Rose, who is against HB 3899. "Imagine the chilling effect on local governmental corporations across the state funding all sorts of modes of transportation if we required this."

Since voter approval, inflation has caused the price tag of Project Connect to increase about $4 billion.