Why isn't more of the mainstream media in Texas providing this information to the public?
There are 2 new issues pending with lawmakers and TxDOT. Read about them below:
Apparently, there is a lot going on with our federal officials challenging TxDOT's management and operations. As most of you know, I've been writing about abusive TxDOT practices for the past 5 years hoping to prompt the public and legislators to step-up to reign-in the runaway agency.
1st TxDOT issue:
According to the Walker Report:
Congressman Ciro Rodriguez challenges TxDot
Congressman Ciro Rodriguez Calls for Congressional Hearing to Examine TxDOT’s Plan to Re-Tax Texans
(Washington, D.C.) – On Friday, Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez (TX-23) challenged the Texas Department of Transportation’s efforts to lobby Congress to support the State's plan to “buy back” existing highways and transform them into toll roads. Rodriguez also called on the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee to look into TxDOT's use of taxpayer funds to promote a Texas toll road plan.
Congressman Rodriguez released the following statement:
“TxDOT’s plan to basically re-tax Texas drivers is just plain wrong, and their use of taxpayer dollars to fund a pro-toll road PR campaign is an outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez.
“Our Texas tax dollars already paid to build these roads once and now TxDOT wants to tax Texans to convert existing roads to toll roads – taxing us over and over again to use these roads everyday. Today I contacted the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee to ask for a Congressional hearing to look into TxDOT’s proposal and taxpayer funded advertising campaign.”
Congressman Rodriguez serves as a Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.
Posted by Gladia Hollis at Tuesday, September 04, 2007
2nd TxDOT issue:
And according to Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom (TURF) :
Lawmakers call for TxDOT to cease using taxpayer money to lobby for toll roads
Citizens call for immediate resignations of TxDOT leadership San Antonio, TX, Tuesday, September 4, 2007 – Several Texas lawmakers, Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson , and State Representatives Joe Farias , David Leibowitz , Nathan Macias and concerned citizens stood shoulder to shoulder to call for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to cease and desist from using taxpayer money to lobby for toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor. The citizens went a step further and called for the immediate resignations of TxDOT leadership. Both also called for TxDOT to immediately install the original gas tax funded improvement plan for U.S. Highway 281 and drop all plans to convert that existing state highway into a toll road. “TxDOT should begin (improving its relations with the public) by installing the overpasses and improvements at an estimated cost of $100 million and already paid for by our gas taxes instead building the hugely intrusive $400 million toll plan for US 281 at four times the cost (and double the number of lanes),” demanded Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson , who also sits on the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Adkisson listed other failures in transportation policy, including the failure to index the gas tax, accelerate other forms of transportation, implement creative solutions like contraflow, repair Texas being a donor state giving away more of our gas taxes than we get back despite being asked to bear the burden of NAFTA related traffic, and illegal lobbying (Texas Government Code Chapter 556) by TxDOT. Representative Nathan Macias (R- Dist 73) also called for TxDOT to install the gas tax improvement plan for US 281 saying it was DOUBLE TAXATION to toll an existing highway and said that the highway department was cherry-picking, “there’s money in them thar hills, and TxDOT is comin’ after it.” He also noted how every major artery used by his constituents in the Texas Hill Country are slated to become tolled corridors, I-35, US 281, I-10, and SH 16. Macias sits on the House Transportation Committee and led the charge AGAINST SB 792 which allows the highest possible tolls ( http://texasturf.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=129&Itemid=2 ). He challenged TxDOT's cost escalation for the 281 and 1604 projects that have doubled and even quadrupled in some estimates. "The math just doesn't add up." Representative Joe Farias (D-Dist 118) told how he introduced an amendment to put Loop 1604 and US 281 under the two-year private toll moratorium, SB 792, but explained how the Senate stripped it out. He’s gravely concerned with the economic impact to his constituents who struggle to put gas in their cars much less pay tolls, too. Farias has been threatened by a highway lobbyist for introducing that amendment ( http://satollparty.com/post/?p=708) . Representative David Leibowitz , (D-Dist. 117), who also sits on the San Antonio MPO, called for the board to pass a resolution to stop TxDOT from illegally spending taxpayer money to push tolls and is also asking the Attorney General for an opinion to aid in that effort. “I have never voted for a single toll road bill in my time in the Texas House,” shared Leibowitz as he described how he expressly placed 1604 under the moratorium through legislative intent in the House journal and now he finds that TxDOT and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) is flouting that intent and still trying to involve private entities in tolling that highway (http://texasturf.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=156&Itemid=2). He also shared concerns about the disproportionate share Texas is having to pay for NAFTA. All encouraged citizens to seek accountability at the ballot box since the vast majority of the Legislature followed the Governor down the path to toll roads (versus indexing the gas tax: http://texasturf.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&Itemid=30 ), which will result in “the largest tax increase in Texas history” according to Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson . “The citizens support lawmakers’ efforts to put accountability and sanity back into transportation policy,” said Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Terri Hall . “With U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison introducing a bill to prevent the tolling of existing interstates this week, calls from U.S. Congressman Ciro Rodriguez to investigate the tolling of existing interstates report, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn and U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzales adamantly opposed to it, the people may get relief on the federal level first.” Hall echoed the calls to revert back to the gas tax funded plan for improvements to 281 and stop the tolling of our other existing highways. “TxDOT has breached the public trust and it cannot be repaired short of cleaning house at that agency. They’ve repeatedly sworn to our faces they’re not tolling existing roads and then lobbied Congress to do just that!” fumed Hall surrounded by dozens of concerned citizens. “It’s vitally important the public is made aware that several existing state highways and interstates are slated to become toll corridors, I-35 (between San Antonio and Dallas), I-10 (in Houston and San Antonio), 281, 1604, Bandera Rd., and others. If TxDOT and the politicians who enable them have their way, it won’t stop there,” believes Hall.
“TxDOT plans to take every single lane on existing highway US 281 and convert them into toll lanes. The only free lanes will be frontage roads, not highway lanes. The same is true for 16 miles on Loop 1604. When TxDOT already has a plan and the money to install the needed improvements on 281 without tolls and REFUSES to do so after thousands of citizens and many lawmakers have asked them to, it’s clear we have a highway department that’s out of control and not acting in the public’s best interest. In fact, they’re more interested in enriching private road contractors leaving the traveling public left holding the bag ,” voiced Hall. (Posted here with permission as a public service by Peter Stern)
The Ongoing Crusade for Toll Road Privatization The Toll "Ogres" are out to get us! The Alternative to Toll Roads: An Adequate and Unrestrained Gasoline Tax BOTTOM-LINE: Toll Roads are NOT cost-effective
A fuel tax, a.k.a. gasoline tax, is a sales tax imposed on the sale of fuel. The fuel tax in Texas is currently set at 20¢/gal since being raised to that amount in 1991.
As in most instances throughout the U.S. the fuel tax collected in Texas is dedicated to the building and maintenance of roadways; however, often it is 60-percent of the tax revenue that goes toward this effort while 40-percent of the collection is used for more general purposes, e.g., public and/or higher education. Consequently, much of the revenue is diverted to other interests.
We are told by Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) that there is a vast shortage in the revenue for building and maintaining roadways and that the only method to improve that shortage is to generate toll roads.
TxDOT continues to whine about its lack of revenue, yet it has spent more than a reported $9 MILLION of taxpayer dollars to promote and advertise its toll roads.
In addition, TxDOT now is using tax dollars for "lobbying" the U.S. Congress to eliminate the current laws prohibiting placing tolls on already-paid-for interstate highways.
So, if TxDOT is in such dire straits financially why is it spending our taxdollars for reasons OTHER THAN building and maintaining Texas roadways?
Another reason given for the lack of sufficient revenue from the collection of gasoline taxes is that the tax rate has been frozen in Texas since 1991. The reason for the freeze is unknown, at least publicly. Perry has been instrumental during his 2 terms as governor in continuing the freeze, frequently stating that increasing the gas tax is NOT an option. Furthermore, the Texas GOP has kept a platform of “No new taxes” and has supported the governor in maintaining the freeze on gasoline taxes.
So, apparently what we have in Texas is a self-imposed shortage of available financing to build and maintain roadways throughout the state. Six years ago Gov. Perry authorized TxDOT to “use whatever creative means available” to compensate for the shortage of financing and to generate more revenue for roadways. In reality, the meaning of that statement was for TxDOT and the legislature to develop the ways and means to build toll roads. The push for toll roads also was sparked by Perry’s wealthy pro-toll campaign contributors, which already had been determined and initiated when George Bush had been governor.
In conclusion, the shortage of revenue from the gasoline tax is self-imposed because of two main reasons:
- The gasoline tax rate has been frozen since 1991
- Approximately 40-percent of gasoline tax revenue is being diverted to other interests.
The shortage has increased also from TxDOT:
- Spending MILLIONS of our tax dollars to lobby Washington so it can legally continue to do what it has attempted to do illegally, that is, to toll our existing already-paid-for highways and roads
- Spending MILLIONS of our taxpayer dollars to promote and to advertise toll roads and plans.
The bottom-line is that toll roads are NOT a cost-effective method of financing roadways. Generally, up to 80-percent of the toll revenue collected goes to the management, building and operations of the toll roads. It is not unusual for the state to contract the toll road to a private concern from 50 to 80 years, e.g., on some toll projects the state has a 70-year contract with international toll maven CINTRA and its American partner Zachry Construction.
Because of the relatively inelastic nature of demand for fuel, in the short run the tax will be an effective source of revenue. In the long run, however, theory predicts that people adjust their consumption of petrol; that is, over a period of years, people will consume less as the price increases (by buying more fuel-efficient cars, for instance). Thus, some environmentalists have advocated a fuel tax as a way to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Still, the more intelligent alternative to toll roads is to permit the gasoline tax rate to increase naturally along with the inflationary index and cost-of-living factors and to ensure that 100-percent of the revenue collected from the tax goes to the building and maintenance of our roadways.
Gov. Perry has vehemently stated that he will NOT support increasing the gasoline tax.
In addition, it has become more obvious that TxDOT is NOT working in the best interests of the Texas community. The laws provide the legislature with minimum controls over the agency; consequently, TxDOT continues to do whatever it wants without repercussions or accountability to the people of Texas.
Furthermore, as more local county governments work with the "runaway" agency it becomes clear that more oversight of TxDOT is needed, perhaps even leading to its restructuring.
However, if the state legislature agrees with and authorizes a more rational attempt to use a fair and adequate gasoline tax, the revenue collected will generate sufficient financing needed for building and maintaining our roads.
Toll roads are NOT needed.