Over 100 grassroots groups say NO to private toll roads, multi-leveraged debt
Coalition says YES to elected leadership, ending diversions
(Austin, TX - May 11, 2011) Over 100 grassroots groups and 2,000 individuals have signed onto an Open Letter (click here for abbreviated version with the list of grassroots groups without the 70 pages of individual signatures) to the Governor and state leaders on transportation issues, which includes a strong message against the Governor's agenda of selling off our public roads to private corporations.
The letter, hand delivered to the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker and every legislator, comes just in time to inform lawmakers in no uncertain terms what the grassroots want and don't want on transportation policy as a conference committee decides what stays in and what comes out of the loaded-up TxDOT Sunset Bill, SB 1420.
"We've watched a litany of anti-taxpayer transportation bills come through the pipeline this session, and most of them got hitched to the TxDOT Sunset Bill. This sends a strong message to the conferees and lawmakers that the grassroots don't want them to sell-off our roads to the highest bidder in these sweetheart deals that will cost Texans 75 cents a mile to use our public roads. Putting the power to tax in the hands of a private corporation whom the taxpayers can't hold accountable isn't just runaway taxation, it's tyranny," asserted Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.
The letter contends with privatizing Texas roads using public private partnerships (PPP), non-compete agreements, ‘innovative financing,’ multi-leveraged debt, and road tax diversions, and demands accountability measures at the highway department like elected leadership to head the agency and a complete financial audit of the Texas Department of Transportation.
Texans of all political persuasions have untied against PPPs, but it's particularly notable that PPPs, the brainchild of Libertarians, have come under increasing criticism from within its own ranks. It’s rankled conservatives as well, with Michelle Malkin calling them 'corporate welfare.'
“Texas politics has degenerated into how the rich and powerful become more rich and powerful. Libertarians oppose socialist boondoggles like these so-called 'public-private partnerships,' which are the worst of both worlds. Profits flow to Wall Street, losses fall on Main Street, and our sovereignty has been sold for a pittance," observed Kathie Glass, Libertarian Party of Texas 2010 Nominee for Governor, State Executive Committee, District 7.
"These bad transportation bills take the onerous Trans Texas Corridor concept and spread it all over the state. This push is fueled by special interests who quite frankly do not care how much citizens have to pay for transportation. We are actively fighting these bills because they put the power to tax in the hands of private tolling companies and give these unelected people the power to set the tolls. On top of that, these unelected toll authorities can keep the tolls in place into perpetuity.Texans don't need, don't want, and don't deserve unelected bureaucrats running state transportation!” confirmed JoAnn Fleming, Chair, Advisory Committee to the Texas Legislature's Tea Party Caucus and Executive Director, Grassroots America - We the People.
"Rarely are efforts to undermine the popular will so clear as the swarm of private toll road bills passed by both the House and Senate," said Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG).
"The public has protested privatized toll roads for years now, though nearly a decade after Governor Perry first announced plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), lawmakers are pushing through legislation to advance at least 20 private toll road deals in Texas. None of the private toll road bills passed this session protect against private toll road companies seizing ordinary Texans land for economic development purposes nor does the eminent domain ‘reform’ bill passed by both chambers."
Grassroots leaders want to be sure lawmakers are put on notice about key transportation policies as major bills begin hitting the floor at the conclusion of the session.
"With all the focus on redistricting, the budget, and other big ticket items like immigration, we want lawmakers to know transportation is also a big issue. It effects every mile we drive, and with gas at $4/gallon, adding 75 cents a mile in tolls in the hands of a private corporation is unsustainable. We will hold them accountable for the tax decisions they're making that will impact generations to come," Hall added.