A bill filed last week proposes creating a fund that would support future improvements to ship channels in Texas.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Conroe Republican, filed Senate Bill 28 on Friday. The bill proposes the creation of a ship channel improvement revolving fund, which would be supplied by the state’s general revenue fund and controlled by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Creighton called it a “first step” for improving Texas ports and something that “continues the conversation” about how to give Texas a competitive edge in the future.

The bill doesn’t specifically name projects that would be supported by the revolving fund or propose an amount that would be put in the fund, or how the fund would be replenished — revolving funds are typically set up as loan programs, and replenished by interest payments from the entities that receive loans through the program.

Creighton was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Texas Ports, which was established by the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015. A report published in October concluded that Texas provided little or no ongoing direct support for the maintenance of its ports, despite the fact they need billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements.

“Texas ports and manufacturing face an unprecedented competitive threat as ports in neighboring states are beating Texas in the race to improve their depth and infrastructure to meet the opportunities created by the new, deeper Panama Canal,” the report said. “Texas cannot afford to fall behind.”

The report suggested the legislature create parameters of a fund for port infrastructure, but determine actual spending priorities in 2019 or later.

Creighton echoed the report’s language in his news release.

Goods moving through Texas ports represent 30 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, Creighton said.

Creighton’s Senate district includes Bolivar Peninsula.

A similar bill, calling for a Port Capital Project Revolving Loan Program, was filed in the Texas House of Representatives in February, by Rene Oliveira, a Democrat from Brownsville.

The bill is Senate Bill 28. It was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee on Monday.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com. Follow him on Twitter, @johnwferguson.

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