|« City and school elections. Voting begins Monday.||The wilds of Plano »|
At the annual TxDOT Forum, Governor Rick Perry urged the participants to "be willing to get a bloody nose for a good idea" in fighting to gain legislative approval of the Trans-Texas Corridor and privately financed toll roads.
He also called on the legislature to, "end its addiction to gas tax money", saying, "We cannot afford for 2009 to be another 2007".
Perry's speech is an important document - it sets the stage for what promises to be a monumental legislative battle over the future direction of Texas highway construction. (The next legislature will convene in 2009)
While the citizens did approve a constitutional amendment authorizing the TTC, popular protests and rural opposition caused the legislature to rein in most new toll projects. (The legislature exempted the DFW area from the toll moratorium: because of that, the last year the region has seen the birth of 3 profit making toll roads - SH 121, The Trinity Parkway, and SH 161)
As the November election date nears, there will be some real debates and polarization between candidates for the Texas House and Senate. I believe the outcome of these debates will set the direction Texas will follow in building new roads.
Sadly, there will be no legislative debates in Collin County. All our legislative incumbents are running for re-election unopposed.
I received an email from CorridorWatch, a grass roots organization opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor and of private ownership of public roads, which responded to the Governor's speech to TxDOT.
In order to present both sides of this issue that will NOT be debated in Collin County, but which profoundly affects our county, I am posting here both the complete text of Rick Perry's address, and of CorridorWatch's response.
|Texas Governor Perry Addresses TxDOT's Transportation Forum||CorridorWatch Comments on the Governor's Speech|
Thank you, Ned [Holmes, commissioner of the Texas Transportation Commission] for that kind introduction and for having me here today. I also want to commend Amadeo [Saenz] for your work leading this organization through one of the most challenging times in its history.
TXDOT has certainly been spending some time in the public eye, but this place is about big challenges, not big excuses. And I'm convinced that this team can handle the heat. Road builders are cut from a different cloth. It takes a person of vision to look at a state, analyze the growth trends, understand the infrastructure needs, and offer a plan to move people around that haven't even been born yet.
That kind of planning can sometimes puzzle those individuals of limited perspective. As you know, my good friend, Ric Williamson, was such a visionary. So that often put him at cross-purposes with infrastructure needs through the lens of the next 2 years, instead of looking at the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. With his passing, we certainly lost a clear, passionate voice, but the challenges that he vigorously fought to overcome have not gone away.
If anything, those challenges have grown larger, and this moment in time finds us at a crossroads. Our population continues to grow by roughly 1,500 people per day. For you Aggies in the audience, that means we could fill Kyle Field up with newcomers every 55 days, or fill it up 66 times in the next ten years.
That's a whole lot of people with a whole lot of needs, but that's not the only factor in play. We're also dealing with a funding crisis brought on by a less-than-reliable federal gas tax system. inflation at the national level for everything from materials to labor, and the fact that the bondspassed in 2003 have been spent. As of right now, TxDOT construction lettings are projected to be half of what they were in 2005.
That is not what I call progress. It's what I call a problem.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I travel around Texas and the country, one of the things I enjoy the most is bragging about the Texas economy. Texas is leading the nation in job growth and has been voted the top state in the nation to do business. Just yesterday, I read where we are now the leading state in the nation for corporate headquarters, recently surpassing New York.
Companies are moving to Texas in droves, creating thousands of new jobs for our people and investing billions in our economy. If we can't find a way to move their goods, services and workers around this state, they will leave just as fast.
The simple truth is: When it comes to roads, we need more of them.
Because I'm sure as heck not going to stop inviting companies to relocate their operations to our state. Those jobs mean income for Texas families, tax revenues for local communities, and a continually rising economic tide. And good roads mean a better quality of life for our citizens.
Unfortunately, folks on the various sides of this issue have lost sight of these simple facts. Too often, we have seen the issue of road construction driven by emotion, rather than reason. When this happens, honest debate is stifled, and solutions are sacrificed at the altar of politics.
Just a few short years ago, we made significant progress on the challenge of building our transportation infrastructure. I would argue, in fact, that we changed the ages-old paradigm of how Texas does transportation. We brought local communities to the table through our regional planning authorities. We instituted bonding so local authorities could leverage toll roads and make their tax dollars go even further. We invited the private sector into the conversation for market-driven solutions to the funding challenge. This was progress and it works.
I want everyone within earshot to understand that we cannot assume this problem will fix itself. And while I am looking forward to addressing this issue when the legislature meets in 2009, the state cannot afford a repeat of 2007. Members of the legislature must understand that "no" is not a solution to this challenge. It is an abdication of responsibility.
Instead, we need to innovate. We need to thoughtfully debate. And we need to bring all ideas to the table to tackle the overwhelming need our state faces. And we already have some pretty innovative ideas on the table.
A decade ago, if I would have told you that there was a way to pay for all the roads you wanted, if I had talked about a group of people who are dying to compete for the chance to spend their money to build your roads, you would have told me I'd lost my mind. With all your experience in financing and building roads, you would have thought such a thing too good to be true. But it is true.
There are many, many financial institutions out there ready and willing to invest in Texas roads, willing to pay for the roads we need but can't afford, in exchange for the opportunity to recover their investment and make a profit over time. In fact, last month, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters publicly estimated that there are roughly $400 billion dollars in private money available worldwide for public infrastructure projects. That's billion with a "b."
In Texas, we pursue private money to build our communications infrastructure, we leverage private money to build our rail infrastructure, and we welcome private investment from overseas if it means putting up a plant for Toyota or Samsung. So why in the world shouldn't we pursue private funds to help us build roads?
I am convinced that private dollars, administered through private-public partnerships, are a significant part of the answer to our transportation infrastructure challenge. I also believe the legislature should break its addiction to gas tax money and insist it be spent on transportation and transportation alone. That will be a great first step, but not the only step.
We Texans are at the wheel of a powerhouse economy that is racing forward at record speeds. As our growth accelerates, our needs do as well. We do not fulfill the public trust if we waste our time arguing over millions when our needs are in the billions. We are stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime and hurting our state in the process.
So we need to innovate. And I'll step up and say it's possible we haven't thought of every single solution to our infrastructure challenges. That door is open for a better idea. I'm intrigued by Senator Ogden's idea of finding a way to give our Texas pension funds first chance to invest in Texas roads. I think this idea is loaded with promise. As the next session approaches, I look forward to discussing it and other ways to fund our road construction. The Senator's creativity is a great example of how to approach the issue.
I also believe additional bonding can be part of a greater solution. However, until that greater solution, that long term strategy, becomes more clear, I am not willing to allow this state to just go further into debt. Running up the credit card just pushes back the greater problem for two more years. I say no more band-aids. No more short-term fixes. Texas needs long-term solutions and a long-term strategy and Texas needs it now.
I am fully committed to working with the legislature to find that long-term sustainable solution. Leaders like Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Craddick have shown they have what it takes to tackle tough problems. We have done so together in the past with tough issues like medical malpractice reform, balancing the budget in times of deficit, and finding solutions to school finance. I am confident that we can work together to solve this great challenge too.
By advancing toward solutions and, ultimately, solving this challenge, we will make a better tomorrow for the state we all love so much. I encourage you to stay engaged, bring your best ideas to the table and be willing to get a bloody nose every once in a while for a noble idea. Otherwise, we'll just watch the world pass us by as jobs, citizens and investment hit the open road for more favorable conditions.
That has never been the Texas way and, God willing, never will be.
Thank you for all you do. May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas
|Today Governor Perry used the podium at a TxDOT conference to deliver a verbal assault on the Texas Legislature and every citizen of Texas.
We can certainly agree that the last few years have been challenging times at TxDOT. Finally, TxDOT is in the public eye, and the result so far has been a real poke in the eye to anyone looking.
The heat TxDOT receives today is the direct result of the direction they have been forced to take by two powerful men, Governor Rick Perry and his late best friend Ric Williamson. It is their planning, not TxDOT's, that has people puzzled. It is their insistence that a projected population growth somehow justifies anything they want to do, anywhere they want to do it, using any financial scheme available. It's building roads from where no one lives to where no one works that leaves us puzzled. No matter how many Aggies you put in Kyle Field you still don't need a 1/4-mile wide Trans Texas Corridor in Pecos County.
Yes, companies are moving to Texas in droves, but will they continue to find our state as inviting when the toll cost of driving to work or moving their goods to market skyrockets? Texas is a big state and tolls here will add up to big money in a big hurry.
Perry accuses the legislature of abdicating their responsibility when in fact they are among the few who are acting responsibly.
We believe the Governor's headlong rush to public-private partnerships could lead to disaster. Wall Street firms are just now starting to describe these deals as financially-engineered infrastructure models that should raise great concern. We agree. Does anyone remember the marvelous financial model that led to the rise and fall of Enron?
Today Perry described this private financing as something that you would have thought too good to be true. Then claims, "But it is true." Really? And if Texas is such a powerhouse economy why is it that the only way we can afford to build highways is with one of these private partners?
We have not lost sight of the facts, even though they are hard to find among the something for nothing public-private partnership rhetoric. And when was there ever any honest debate to stifle? When was there any debate?
One thing we know for sure is that market-driven solutions will, by design, produce the highest possible tolls to maximize revenue. A good deal if your on the collection side of these state sanctioned monopolies. Not so good for the traveling public and those who will pay the added cost for goods and services using these maximized toll roads.
Yes, we need to address transportation finance. But in that process the citizens of this state should have a say in what they want and what they are willing to pay for. Somehow we ended up with the Governor dictating what we need and how we'll get it. In the process we completely lost our ability to control the price we will pay for what he is buying. Seems Perry and Peters knows what's best for us. You can call it politics Mr. Perry, but that's how we the citizens have our say. We elected those legislators and we expect them to represent us, and sometimes that means saying no.
We have a lot of needs in this state, better and safer roads are certainly high on the list, but so is education, and a few dozen other items. Rumor has it that our population is booming. It's hard to believe that the only thing all those new Texans will need are toll roads.
Maybe we do need toll roads. If so lets have that discussion, maybe even a vote, and lets be reasonable in the process. How about a return to accountability and transparency in the way we propose projects like the Trans-Texas Corridor?
The Governor's good sound bites will leave a bad taste in our mouths for decades to come. As always the devil is in the details. Details that Perry brushes aside. There is no free lunch and there is certainly no free highway. No matter how you get it built it is the citizens of Texas who will pay the tab. We can pay it though a direct tax we have control of or pay it along with a profit to a private monopoly that we have no control over. In either case we deserve to have a say.
The real innovation that the Governor has proposed is turning our highways into the state's largest and least controllable taxing machine. Ensuring that we, our children, and grand children will be producing revenue for the state and their public-private partners long after Governor Perry has left the stage.
There are a lot of loons on the left, but we have a few on the right too, don't we? It's not like Daily Kos or Bill Maher numbers, but there are a tiny few loons on the right.
Yes, because there are roads at all. They haven't built a freeway in California in a couple of decades. They don't even have money to widen them. They don't even have money to repair them!
Businesses will continue to come here because the state income tax that they don't pay here (no thanks to Democrats) is huge compared to a $1 toll.
Democrats are upset because they are in the pockets of unions and privately-built roads aren't under the thumbs of unions.
If a Democrat is against it, it means either a trial lawyer or union is against it.
Comments are closed for this post.