STOP tolls in PERPETUITY


IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bills to allow Robin Hood perpetual tolls near passage

HB 1112 & SB 19 give toll agencies unlimited power to tax, SJR 13 makes Constitutional change

(Austin, TX, May 20, 2011) - Three bills are making their way through the Texas Legislature that represent a huge policy shift away from traditional turnpikes where the toll comes off the road when it's paid for to granting authority to keep tolls in place to fund other projects. HB 1112 by Rep. Larry Phillips allows toll entities, in effect, to toll in perpetuity and use borrowed money to secure more borrowed money, the same multi-leveraging methods that caused the subprime mortgage crisis.

"It's like building roads with credit cards," maintains Terri Hall, Founder, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. "The fact that this risky multi-leveraged debt also means Texans will be tolled in perpetuity by un-elected boards makes these anti-taxpayer bills that much more egregious."

SB 19 by Sen. Robert Nichols, on the General State Calendar in the House for tomorrow, is known as the 'primacy' bill giving toll entities the right of first refusal on all toll projects in its jurisdiction. However, when toll entities exercise a right of first refusal, under Nichols' bill, they also get development rights for ALL future segments of the project. SB 19 also grants toll entities ownership of the road in perpetuity. This virtually guarantees tolls will be charged in perpetuity and that these projects will be never become non-toll roads. Hall believes this bill gives far too much power to these UN-elected toll entities.

'System financing' code for Robin Hood perpetual tolling
Some have dubbed this practice known as 'system financing' as Robin Hood since it steals toll taxes from one corridor and pledges it to another corridor (that those same users may not use). It can also involve increasing the toll on one segment to gain 'surplus revenue' to pledge to another project and so on, making it impossible to take tolls off the original road. The Texas Constitution currently prohibits perpetuities in Art I, Sec. 26.

However, if SJR 13 by Sen. Chris Harris, which has already passed the Senate and is currently in the House Calendars Committee, becomes law, Texans could lose their Constitutional protection from perpetuities since it, too, allows surplus toll revenues to be committed to other projects (potentially keeping tolls in place after the debt is retired).

"They worded SJR 13 in such a way as to hoodwink voters into thinking the amendment is about dedicating toll revenues to transportation projects, when it likely means tolls will be charged beyond when the road is paid for to fund new projects. It wouldn't even have to be road projects, 'transportation projects' could mean light rail or transit," notes Hall.

During some questions on the back mic on third reading of HB 1112 in the House, it was claimed HB 1112 does not mean tolls in perpetuity. But according to testimony by Sen. Steve Ogden in the Senate Transportation Committee March 9 while laying out his bill SB 363 that would make tolls cease when a road is paid for, it is: “I’m here to atone for my sins, and to make sure the innocent don’t pay for the guilty and to make sure we have truth in taxation. SB 363 addresses an issue in current law where the length of time a tolling entity is authorized to collect tolls on a project is not specified. SB 363 removes the authorization of all tolling entities from using surplus toll revenue to fund other toll projects. SB 363 also adds that once acquisition and construction costs for a toll road have been paid for then the collection of a toll ceases and the road becomes part of the state highway system which TxDOT maintains...

“But what we have in this state right now is perpetual tolling. And I don’t think it is truth in taxation...What I’m trying to do is to make tolls truly a fee for use rather than a general tax that gets spent by entities that really voters have not voted for or approved...I’m positive if you ask the public do you think tolls should go away if the road is paid for it’d be an overwhelming 'yes.'”

"So these bills would grant permission for toll entities to toll our citizens in perpetuity and make tolls no longer a user fee, but a perpetual, hidden tax; whereas right now, the law is not specific. A vote for these bills is a vote for PERPETUAL taxation in the hands of UN-elected bureaucrats," affirms Hall.

HB 1112 is in conference and may come up for a vote ANYTIME in either chamber.

Gives toll agencies lock on roads, assures higher road taxes
The implications of SB 19 could be widespread. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) have been forced, due to persistent funding shortfalls, to designate most every road project as tolled in order to keep projects in its plans and moving forward, using the toll designation, essentially, as a placeholder. But due to primacy and the language in SB 19, a toll entity can exercise primacy over the project at any time once an MPO adopts ANY toll project into its plan, when locals may wish to revert that project back to a non-tolled project at a later date. SB 19 does not give them the flexibility to do so.

"The initiation process and re-initiation process coupled with the flawed MPO financially constrained mandates all but guarantee a huge portion of road projects will be tolled FOREVER. Plus, a project could be jockeyed back and forth over whether to toll or not and who will do it, indefinitely. There is no end to this process clearly spelled out in the bill," notes Hall.

The bill also allows toll entities to conduct its own environmental studies.

"Under no circumstances should a toll entity be able to conduct its own environmental studies -- this practice makes it certain that a tolled outcome will always be churned out as the 'preferred alternative' under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which violates the requirement of an unbiased review of all reasonable alternatives, including non-toll options," Hall reports.

Texas TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending Texans’ concerns with toll road policy, Trans Texas Corridor-style projects like public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuses. TURF promotes non-toll transportation solutions.

Grassroots unite against Perry's privatized toll road deals

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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.

TxDOT Sunset run amok - revives Trans Texas Corridor

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TxDOT Sunset runs amok: Little reform to be found
Toll road, Trans Texas Corridor, special interest lovefest


(Austin, TX - April 29, 2011) Today, the Texas House will consider the Sunset Bill, HB 2675, for the Texas Department of Transportation. Judging by the pre-filed 77 amendments, the priority of this Legislature is not fixing an agency run amok, but rather handing Texas’ roads to private, foreign corporations and increasing taxes (corporate toll road rates of 75 cents a mile, and vehicle registration and gas taxes hikes in certain areas).

At least three other major pieces of controversial legislation were drafted as amendments, one that’s a special interest giveaway (design-build contracts that eliminate low bid, competitive bidding with “best value” bidding rife with favoritism, abuses), and two that involve multi-leveraging of taxpayer money being loaned for both public and private toll roads for which the taxpayer will pay back their own money with interest through tolls!

HB 2255, in amendment form with four more projects added to the mix, by Larry Phillips would privatize and toll 11 different Texas highways from DFW to the Valley, and George Lavender and Eddie Lucio III’s amendments would revive segments of the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69/I-69 in Bowie County and down in the Valley. The authors of the other bills to privatize Texas roadways are Tan Parker and Linda Harper-Brown.
Particularly with Hwy 183 (Rep. Harper-Brown's amendment), TxDOT has telegraphed in an Austin Statesman article that this project will be 100% paid for with ALL Texans’ gas taxes (so this is NOT a ‘local’ issue, as lawmakers argue, when it uses ALL Texans' money) then handed to a private concessionaire to be a toll collector for the next 50 years on a road that’s PAID FOR!

Read it here and scroll to the bottom of the story.

"The fact that a road will be 100% paid for by Texas taxpayers and then handed over to a private corporation to gouge our citizens with oppressively high toll taxes at 75 cents a mile for a HALF CENTURY is a piracy of the public's assets. It is what Michelle Malkin said it is, corporate welfare. Texans oppose tolling existing roads because it's a double tax. How much more egregious when the road is 100% built with gas taxes as our existing roads are, then handed over to a private company in a sweetheart deal kept SECRET from the public, that will in-debt generations, heist private property and hand it to a private corporation for private gain, increase taxes on driving, increase our cost of goods, impede our freedom to travel, and ensure our free roads remain congested for our lifetimes. Texans are outraged by this, whether they’re residents of Irving or not, these are STATE highways and have implications across Texas!" notes an outraged Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.

The vast majority of these proposed amendments represent some of the very worst, anti-taxpayer public policy we’ve ever seen,” fumes Hall, “it demonstrates a total lack of respect for the Sunset process that supposed to be about eliminating waste and duplication and increasing efficiency to save the taxpayers money -- keep the size of government in check.  

“What do half of these pieces of legislation thrown in here have to do with reforming TxDOT? They don’t. Instead, the bill has become a vehicle for lawmakers to pig pile every controversial piece of legislation onto the proverbial legislative Christmas tree.”

The Sunset Committee Advisory Report said: “The Sunset review of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) occurred against a backdrop of distrust and frustration with the Department and the demand for more transparency, accountability, and responsiveness. Many expressed concerns that TxDOT was “out of control,” advancing its own agenda against objections of both the Legislature and the public. Sunset staff found that this atmosphere of distrust permeated most of TxDOT’s actions and determined that it could not be an effective state transportation agency if trust and confidence were not restored. Significant changes are needed to begin this restoration; tweaking the status quo is simply not enough.”

Yet the current Sunset bill has a status quo Commission (the same five appointees of the Governor), and a status quo reporting structure for top management, along with the controversial, special interest design build contracts that eliminate, low bid competitive bidding.

“This coupled with a scathing 628 page management audit that revealed deep-seated, structural problems in every department division with TxDOT, it’s inexplicable that our legislators are essentially giving this agency a free pass to keep putting the screws to the taxpayers with their unpopular privatized toll road network that are rife with eminent domain abuse and a loss of sovereignty over Texas infrastructure that will cost Texans dearly to move about this state.

“The abuse of property rights, the punitive level of taxation, the reckless disregard for the public interest just to get a road built, and the special interest giveaways are simply staggering,” stated Hall.

“The betrayal of Texans who believe that the Trans Texas Corridor is dead (with the passage of HB 1201) will receive a rude awakening if these amendments that sell Texas to foreign companies, especially the TTC-69/I-69 projects, become law. We simply do not have the words to express our utter disgust with what the TxDOT sunset bill has devolved into.

“God help Texas if any one of these horrible amendments become law!”

TURF is urging Texans to contact their State Representatives to crush these special interest amendments and focus on fixing the highway department.

A comprehensive summary of the proposed pre-filed amendments appear below:

BILL ALERT
HB 2675
TxDOT Sunset Bill
Prepared by Texas TURF
(Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom)

__________________________________________________________________
In alphabetical order -

Alonzo Amendment # 821497

We are AGAINST this amendment because it would allow TxDOT to hire an “emerging fund manager” - we thought we’re supposed to be trimming staff, shouldn’t this have a fiscal note? Emerging Fund Manager includes “PRIVATE EQUITY FUND MANAGERS” [Sec 222.005 (b) (2)], which involves CDAs and public private partnerships (PPPs), which Texans vehemently oppose. TxDOT’s pension funds are already managed by Board of Trustees outside the agency. TxDOT needs to get out “high finance” and back to building  the best roads in the nation. If TxDOT is given this authority, it’s all but guaranteed they’ll hire people.

Alonzo Amendment # 821500

We’d like this amendment CHANGED. When a person’s private property is seized forcibly using eminent domain for a certain public use, they should have a right to purchase their land back, not have the government donate it to someone else, even it’s a charitable cause. Texans fought for this provision in SB 18. We’d like this to be amended to say only AFTER the original landowner is offered the ability to repurchase his/her land and they decline.

Anchia Amendment # 821536

We OPPOSE this amendment. This amendment is a version of HB 1105. The “Complete Streets Policy” is tied to the implementation of the controversial UN Agenda 21 policy, which is anti-car, anti-private property ownership, and attempts to dictate where you can live, how you can live and travel, etc. “Walkable Communities” is a policy initiative tied to Agenda 21‘s Sustainable Development objectives which include: abolishing private property and increasing restrictions on mobility, including public private partnerships.

"Walkable Communities" and "Context Sensitive Solutions" sound innocuous, but according to the fiscal note, it would MANDATE compliance by MPOs and any entity using federal and state funds. There’s already been an example in San Antonio where they took away two lanes open to cars and dedicated them to bikes only, clogging a road that didn’t used to have congestion.

We firmly believe that we need to make our roads safe and friendly to all who need to use them, including pedestrians and cyclists. We need sidewalks where appropriate to make mobility available for EVERYONE, but TxDOT is already required to consider ALL users and modes in its planning so its really redundant.

The bill mandates that road money be taken from roads and given to other modes and mandates compliance. The fiscal note on the bill, HB 1105, says the cost to local governments to implement could be substantial: “Costs may be significant.”


Farrar Amendment # 821541

Restores Sunset Recommendation of a single appointed Commissioner. We want ELECTED leadership...our fear is another ‘Ric Williamson’ type would be appointed!

Gallego Amendment # 821477

We are OPPOSED to ANY gas taxes or registration fees going to SUBSIDIZE an RMA’s toll roads. A well-conceived toll road would be funded by toll revenue bonds where the risk lies of default lies with private bond investors, not taxpayers, and that would pay for itself with the projected toll users without public subsidies. Plus, a vote for this amendment is a vote for a tax hike when Texans can least afford it.

Harper-Brown Amendment # 821556 & McClendon Amendment # 821508

We SUPPORT the CFO reporting to someone other than the Exec Dir. The people of Texas have spoken loudly that they want ELECTED leadership at TxDOT. We’d like the CFO to report to ELECTED Commissioners!

Harper-Brown Amendment # 821557

We are AGAINST this amendment, because we support allocating all of TxDOT’s revenue by formula. Formula funding would go a LONG way in putting objective standards in place for funding allocations to each district, taking the politics out of which projects get built and which ones don’t.

RED ALERT
Harper-Brown Amendment # 821558

We are VEHEMENTLY AGAINST this amendment. We DO NOT support ANY of these controversial CDAs/PPPs that would privatize and toll our TX public roads and eliminate low bid, competitive bidding and replace it with "best value" bidding. The inclusion of CDAs in last session’s Sunset bill is what caused a grassroots revolt to KILL THE BILL!

Particularly with Hwy 183, TxDOT has telegraphed in a Statesman article that this project will be 100% paid for with ALL Texans’ gas taxes (this is NOT a ‘local’ issue when it uses ALL Texans money) then handed to a private concessionaire to be a toll collector for the next 50 years on a road that’s PAID FOR!

Read it here and scroll to the bottom of the story.

The fact that a road will be 100% paid for by Texas taxpayers and then handed over to a private corporation to gouge our citizens with oppressively high toll taxes at 75 cents a mile for a HALF CENTURY is a piracy of the public's assets. It is what Michelle Malkin said it is corporate welfare. Texans oppose tolling existing roads because it's a double tax. How much more egregious when the road is 100% built with gas taxes as our existing roads are, then handed over to a private company in a sweetheart deal kept SECRET from the public, that will in-debt generations, heist private property and hand it to a private corporation for private gain, increase taxes on driving, increase our cost of goods, impede our freedom to travel, and ensure our free roads remain congested for our lifetimes. Texans are outraged by this, whether they’re residents of Irving or not, these are STATE highways and have implications across Texas!

Harper-Brown Amendment # 821559

We are AGAINST this amendment. We encourage an amendment to this amendment that strikes P. 4 Line 25 thru P. 5 Line 2.

At a time of extreme fiscal austerity, the LAST thing we need to be doing is allowing the Department to hire “consultants” on CDAs/PPPs and managing debt with high finance (‘innovative financing’), which in reality means risky, multi-leveraging schemes that caused the subprime mortgage crisis. Shouldn’t this draw a fiscal note on the bill?

Harper-Brown Amendment # 821562

We are AGAINST this amendment. We encourage an amendment to STRIKE SECTION 25 from the bill entirely. This has no business being in a sunset “reform” bill.

While this amendment is an improvement to carte blanche design-build authority, ANY design-build authority is a taxpayer rip-off! The payment to losing bidders, called a ‘stipend’ is reason enough to STRIKE design build from this bill!

We wouldn’t need the cost of all the “independent” inspections and engineers if we used a traditional design-bid-build procurement. This should draw a FISCAL NOTE!

Design build contracts eliminate low bid, competitive bidding and replace with "best value" bidding that is rife with abuse, favoritism, and cronyism (costs taxpayers more for public works projects built using these procurement methods, another industry giveaway). Though it removes a step in the bidding process (the design and the construction bid get combined), it costs taxpayers more and doesn't necessarily save time. These contracts are very controversial and since there's no fixed design done at the time of the bidding (no hard bid, very preliminary design and all the bidders may submit different designs so you're not comparing apples to apples), you don't even discuss price until after the developer is chosen and THEN the developer finishes the design (and the private entities own the design). So the contracts are initially awarded based on intangibles, not price, which tends to open up the process to favoritism and squeeze out the little guy.

Harper-Brown Amendment # 821564

We SUPPORT anything that gives teeth to the Inspector General and that gives them more independence from the agency they watchdog.

Harper-Brown Amendment # 821566

We OPPOSE this amendment since it relates to CDAs/PPPs the BUREACRACY, punitive levels of TAXATION, and LOSS OF SOVEREIGNTY they create. This bill is quickly becoming more about CDAs and toll roads than fixing this broken agency! It’s broken in large part due to the CDAs and toll projects!

We wouldn’t need this section of the bill if you KEEP THE BAN ON CDAs/PPPs in place!  Look at the bureaucracy, time, and legal wrangling we’re creating by all the review of, negotiation of, collection of, and the allocation of TOLL MONEY and handing our PUBLIC ROADS over to private entities.

Harper-Brown Amendment # 821563, McClendon Amendment # 821506, & Pickett Amendment # 821520

We SUPPORT this amendment. The CFO should be a CPA, because CPA have to abide by a certain code of ethics. If there’s anything we need more of in state government, it’s ETHICS, particularly when it comes to the power over the purse! The McClendon Amendment standards for the internal auditor position, which is also needed.

Kolkhorst Amendment # 821530

We SUPPORT this amendment (it appears the numbering may be off, so if this doesn’t replace Section 201.210 and prohibit ALL federal lobbying, we encourage an amendment to this amendment to STRIKE P. 8 lines 8 & 9 altogether). The bill as written opens up a new loophole that weakens the restrictions on lobbying (this language is added and not currently in Chapter 556: (2)  communicate with officers and employees of the federal government in pursuit of federal appropriations and programs. While we understand the need to get every penny of federal money back in Texas, it is NOT the role of our highway department, but rather of legislators to do that. When we've seen TxDOT's $7-9 million PR campaign include the hiring of registered lobbyists (to the tune of $110,000/month!) both to lobby state and federal officials and seen its participation in the Transportation Transformation (T2) lobby group to lobby for PPPs and lax restrictions on them, and TxDOT's lobbying for the TTC and tolling existing interstates (which Texans overwhelmingly oppose), we already know what TxDOT will do with this new language. It'll continue its lobbying full force using taxpayer money to lobby against the taxpayer! Considering TTC-69 will require federal dollars to build, TxDOT could use this money to lobby for yet another version of a Trans Texas Corridor style road using taxpayer money under the guise of pursuing federal appropriations. In short, they can't be trusted with this new authority. It will open up the state to further litigation.

Kolkhorst Amendment # 821537

We SUPPORT this amendment. We totally oppose all CDAs/PPPs, but some still linger out there from prior legislation, and rather than charge taxpayers for the legal time to review these contracts, make the private entities pay. In HB 1, the Attorney General’s office requested 15,000 hours of legal time per year at a cost of $1 million to review CDAs. This is what CDAs reap. Millions in taxpayer money and resources down the drain.

Kolkhorst Amendment # 821539

We SUPPORT this amendment. Again, we OPPOSE all CDAs/PPPs but some still linger, so if they’re such a good deal, an ELECTED OFFICIAL should sign-off on them and certify the contract as a means of ensuring it’s in the public’s best interest.  

Kolkhorst Amendment # 821540

We SUPPORT this amendment. “Programs” is too broad and could encompass lobbying for: toll roads, CDAs/PPPs, a Trans Texas Corridor version of I-69, I-10 and other highways in the Corridors of the Future program that will privatize and toll those interstates, toll credits, TIFIA loans and federal PABs that subsidize PPPs all in the name of a federal “program.”

RED ALERT
Lavender Amendment # 821535

We VEHEMENTLY OPPOSE this amendment and ANY CDA, but especially one that’s the Trans Texas Corridor resurrected! So much for the repeal of the Trans Texas Corridor...it’s B-A-A-C-K! This is a part of what was formerly known as Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69, now using the more innocuous I-69 title. More than 28,000 Texans went on record opposing TTC-69 and they want NO PART OF IT, largely due to the fact it will take Texans’ private property in some families for generations and  hand it over to a private, foreign corporation for a HALF CENTURY in one of these controversial SECRET sweetheart deals (with public subsidies, profit guarantees, non-compete agreements, that eliminate low bid, competitive bidding and replace with "best value" bidding, and  charge extremely high toll rates)! Say ‘NO’ to this amendment!

Lucio Amendment # 821515

We OPPOSE this amendment to raise the gas tax in one of the most economically distressed areas of our state, especially not when they’re paying nearly $4/ gallon already. In light of many of the other transportation bills effecting this region, this increase will be used to borrow money to subsidize toll roads, which they cannot afford to take.

RED ALERT
Lucio Amendment # 821516

We VEHEMENTLY OPPOSE this amendment and ANY CDA, but especially one that’s the Trans Texas Corridor resurrected! So much for the repeal of the Trans Texas Corridor...it’s B-A-A-C-K! This is a part of what was formerly known as Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69, now using the more innocuous I-69 title. More than 28,000 Texans went on record opposing TTC-69 and they want NO PART OF IT, largely due to the fact it will take Texans’ private property in some families for generations and  hand it over to a private, foreign corporation for a HALF CENTURY in one of these controversial SECRET sweetheart deals (with public subsidies, profit guarantees, non-compete agreements, that eliminate low bid, competitive bidding and replace with "best value" bidding, and  charge extremely high toll rates)! A CDA with a Spain-based company ACS and partner Zachry already expired for several of these projects, now these private interests are back wanting YOU to sell Texas to private corporations who will stick it to Texans with oppressive toll taxes, few can afford to pay.  Say ‘NO’ to this amendment!

Martinez Amendment # 821471

We SUPPORT this amendment and anything that would increase transparency, especially as it pertains to private contractors.

McClendon Amendment # 821504

We wholeheartedly SUPPORT a single ELECTED Commissioner! This is what the people of Texas flooded the Sunset Committee asking for -- a single point of accountability that answers DIRECTLY to the PEOPLE of Texas!

McClendon Amendment # 821505

We SUPPORT this amendment. TURF sued TxDOT over it’s illegal lobbying and PR campaign promoting toll roads, PPPs, and the Trans Texas Corridor on the taxpayers’ dime. This bill will make explicit where the line between advertising TollTags/toll roads and seeking to change public opinion lies.

McClendon Amendment # 821507

We SUPPORT this amendment. TxDOT should NEVER be given any wiggle room on lobbying to influence legislation.

McClendon Amendment # 821509

We SUPPORT this amendment since it increases the financial transparency of the agency.

RED ALERT
Parker Amendment # 821301

We VEHEMENTLY OPPOSE this amendment to sell-off a portion of the primary interstate highway in Texas, I-35, to a private, foreign company in a sweetheart deal (with public subsidies, profit guarantees, non-compete agreements, that eliminate low bid, competitive bidding and replace with "best value" bidding, and  charge extremely high toll rates).

The inclusion of controversial CDAs in last session’s Sunset bill is what caused a grassroots revolt to KILL THE BILL!

Texas taxpayers DO NOT want their public roads they rely for daily living handed over to a private corporation to gouge our citizens with oppressively high toll taxes at 75 cents a mile for a HALF CENTURY! It’s a piracy of the public's assets. It is what Michelle Malkin said it is, corporate welfare. These are sweetheart deals kept SECRET from the public, that will in-debt generations, heist private property and hand it to a private corporation for private gain, increase taxes on driving, increase our cost of goods, impede our freedom to travel, and ensure our free roads remain congested for our lifetimes. Texans are outraged by this, whether they’re residents of DFW or not, these are STATE highways, using ALL Texans’ money as subsidies, and have implications across Texas!

Paxton Amendment # 821533

We SUPPORT this amendment and anything that will bring greater transparency to these toll road bureaucracies!

RED ALERT
Phillips Amendment # 821519

We VEHEMENTLY OPPOSE this amendment! This is HB 2255 with 4 additional CDA projects added on. This sells off eleven TX roads to private entities in controversial public private partnerships (PPPs) that eliminate competitive bidding and, in the case of the North Tarrant Express, give the winning private consortium development rights over all future segments (again without competitive bidding). These are sweetheart deals that cost taxpayers punitive toll rates of 75 cents PER MILE (like adding $15 to every gallon of gas you buy). The deals are kept SECRET from the public and elected officials (except the Attorney General), are propped up with massive amounts of public money, have profit guarantees, put the taxpayers on the hook for the losses, contain non-competes that guarantee congestion on free roads, and grant monopolies for a half century at a time!

These are NOT local projects or local decisions as they impact the entire state due to the eminent domain for private gain, public subsidies, and loss of sovereignty over our public infrastructure. With two Committees on State Sovereignty this session, are legislators really going to hand control over Texas roads to foreign toll operators?

RED ALERT
Phillips Amendment # 821518

We OPPOSE this amendment. This is HB 3218 and could be dubbed the "Double Tax & Toxic Debt" Bank Loan Act. This is like building roads with credit cards! It would allow ANY source of revenue given to TxDOT (including gas taxes, general revenue, borrowed money -- Prop 12, Prop 14, Texas Mobility Funds, etc.) to be used to grant loans for toll projects, including loaning our taxpayer money to PRIVATE ENTITIES. In fact, this bill is for the explicit purpose of giving the State Infrastructure Bank the ability to loan money to toll entities as subsidies to prop-up toll projects, including as a means to guarantee loans (their toxic debt).

It's a government recycling program -- use OUR money to lend to private companies to build toll roads that can't pay for themselves, then require us, the taxpayers, to pay it back through tolls, with interest! Conservative Timothy Carney called the idea of a Federal Infrastructure Bank ‘corporate welfare’ for good reason.

In the special session in July 2009, the grassroots rose up to oppose ANY Prop 12 funds from being used to prop-up toll projects that can't pay for themselves (which is a DOUBLE TAX) and they succeeded. This would trample on the people's wishes and change the law to allow DOUBLE TAXATION and borrowed money to be used to secure MORE borrowed money (like using a credit card to pay-off other debt), the same risky lending schemes that brought about the sub-prime mortgage crisis and toxic debt that required a taxpayer bailout of Wall Street.

RED ALERT
Phillips Amendment # 821517

We OPPOSE this amendment. This is HB 2574 granting Design-Build CDA authority to RMAs which gives these toll entities authority to use design build contracts that also eliminate low bid, competitive bidding and replace with "best value" bidding that is rife with abuse, favoritism, and cronyism (costs taxpayers more for public works projects built using these procurement methods, another industry giveaway).

These contracts are very controversial and since there’s no fixed design done at the time of the bidding (no hard bid, all the bidders may submit different designs so you’re not comparing apples to apples), you don’t even discuss price until after the developer is chosen and THEN the developer finishes the design (and the private entities own the design, if the governmental entity decides not to use that team, they pay the private entity for their design, versus TxDOT doing the engineering and owning the design). They also receive a payment for losing the bid, called a “stipend.” This is a slush fund in itself! So the contracts are initially awarded based on intangibles, not price which tends to open up the process to favoritism and squeeze out the little guy.


Pickett Amendment #821523

This would take a few of the appointees out of the Governor’s hands, but the people have made it clear they want ELECTED leadership, not more appointees.

Pickett Amendment # 821524

We like Lines 13-17 which brings much needed fiscal sanity to the lettings, but want to STRIKE P. 1 Lines 27-29 and P. 2 Lines 1-4.

Pickett Amendment # 821525

We OPPOSE this amendment. This is HB 2802 to authorize the use of the Texas Mobility Fund as a revolving fund (code for ‘multi-leveraging’) and to allow Prop 14 and Prop 12 bonds to be used as loans. Revolving fund means to use borrowed money to pay back other borrowed money. Ditto for Prop 12 and Prop 14 money being used as loans since those funds are also BORROWED. This multi-leveraging is risky and is the same scheme that caused the subprime mortgage crisis.

In the bill analysis, it even states that the problem they’re trying to fix is the “instability in the credit markets making it difficult for public toll entities to get financing” and to “mitigate certain project financial risks.” So the taxpayers will be taking on the risk and have their money used to prop-up the toxic debt of toll authorities that the private sector won’t touch (invest in). This bill also allows these monies to be deposited into the State Infrastructure Bank. If HB 3218 passes along with this bill, that means yet more taxpayer money will go to lend money to private corporations. Public money for private profits. Conservative Timothy Carney called the idea of a Federal Infrastructure Bank ‘corporate welfare’ for this reason.

Pickett Amendment # 821568

Transportation Reinvestment Zones stated goal is to redevelop property. Considering the fierce love Texans have for their land and property rights and that most Texans struggle to keep up with their ever increasing property tax bill as it is, and that TRZs represent roads for economic development and ever increasing property tax bills, we OPPOSE this amendment.

Also, in light of HB 1112 passing, TRZ funds can be used to prop-up loser RMA toll projects that can’t pay for themselves. So now we’re using property taxes to subsidize toll roads. Where will this punitive double and triple taxation end?

RED ALERT
Smith Amendment # 821512

We OPPOSE this amendment and ANY design-build contracts. Design build contracts also eliminate low bid, competitive bidding and replace with "best value" bidding that is rife with abuse, favoritism, and cronyism (costs taxpayers more for public works projects built using these procurement methods, another industry giveaway).

These contracts are very controversial and since there’s no fixed design done at the time of the bidding (no hard bid, all the bidders may submit different designs so you’re not comparing apples to apples), you don’t even discuss price until after the developer is chosen and THEN the developer finishes the design (and the private entities own the design, if the governmental entity decides not to use that team, they pay the private entity for their design, versus TxDOT doing the engineering and owning the design). They also receive a payment for losing the bid, called a “stipend.” This is a slush fund in itself! So the contracts are initially awarded based on intangibles, not price which tends to open up the process to favoritism and squeeze out the little guy.

Veasey Amendment # 821468

We SUPPORT this amendment to allow the Legislature to appoint a vacancy of a Transportation Commissioner.

Texas TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending Texans’ concerns with toll road policy, Trans Texas Corridor-style projects like public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuses. TURF promotes non-toll transportation solutions.

Perry touts eminent domain reform, but his bill tells different story


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      
                                                           
April 1, 2011                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                            
 Gov. Perry Touting Property Rights Legislation that Does Not Protect Landowners
SB 18 is a Giveaway to Special Interests and Private Toll Road Companies
 
AUSTIN— While House members were debating the appropriations bill on Thursday, Governor Rick Perry was holding a press conference to urge state  legislators to swiftly pass SB 18, property rights legislation which the governor declared an emergency. While the governor and some lawmakers are claiming SB 18 protects landowners, critics of the legislation say the bill is full of loopholes and excessive legalese yielding most protections virtually meaningless.
 
Many organizations and landowners across Texas have been highly critical of the legislation, including the Property Rights Coalition of Texas (PRCT), a coalition of state-wide and national property rights experts, transportation advocates, tax reform groups and landowners. They maintain that SB 18 does not guard landowners against wrongful takings nor does it ensure that property owners will be fairly compensated for their land. They say the bill does not go far enough to protect property owners from eminent domain for private gain and economic development purposes and point to a loophole in the bill’s repurchasing provision, which means a person could lose their property indefinitely—even if the condemning entity doesn’t use the land.
 
“SB 18 does not provide meaningful protections for property owners in Texas,” said Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) and co-founder of PRCT. “SB 18 will benefit utility companies, the oil and gas industry, real estate developers and private toll road investors before it ever benefit the citizens and landowners of Texas,”
 
 Governor Perry stated Thursday that SB 18 protects landowners by requiring that the condemning entity state specifically the public use for which the land is intended. While this may be true, it does not protect landowners from unlawful takings because it does not include a strong definition for the term “public use,” which is critical to ensure that property is only taken for legitimate purposes.
 
“Without a strict definition for ‘necessary public use,’ private corporations can condemn a landowner’s property, build a private toll road and claim that they did so in the name of public use. After all, the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) was packaged as a “Community Development Association,’” said Cubria.  “This poses imminent threats to property owners in Texas as there are close to 30 private toll road bills working their way through the legislature right now, not one of which includes a single safeguard.”
 
"Perry has no credibility on property rights,” notes Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and co-founder of PRCT. “The very bill he's touting as 'reform,' actually enriches private special interests and condemning entities and does nothing to prevent wrongful takings in the name of a 'public use'."
 
Authors of SB 18 admitted on the floor of the Senate that the bill’s weak and inconsistent language would likely lead to more lawsuits for property owners in Texas. The burden of proof is placed on property owners who  may find themselves defending their rights in lengthy, expensive legal battles with well-connected, well-funded special interests and their powerful attorneys— but the legalese of the bill would make that fight nearly impossible to win.
 
Similarly, while Gov. Perry states that SB 18 requires a government entity to make a legitimate, "bona fide" offer at the beginning of the process, the bill defines the term vaguely. The only requirement for a “bona fide” offer is that it be presented to a landowner and that the appraisal be made by any certified appraiser. Under the terms of SB 18, ExxonMobil can use an in-house appraiser to calculate an arbitrary price for the value of the land. If property owners feel they’ve been low-balled they’ll have to go to court to prove it.
 
Supporters of SB 18 are also touting the bill’s buy back provision, which would allow property owners to buy back their property if it goes unused. The only problem is that the provision contains a loophole, which would enable the condemning entity to keep the property indefinitely. According to a bill analysis of SB 18 by Bill Peacock of Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), who has not formally joined the coalition but who advises PRCT members on property rights issues, “…the “buy-back” provision in SB 18 is at least as bad as current law, and will harm rather than improve property rights in Texas.”
 
“Governor Perry and Commissioner Staples are both correct in noting the dangers of ignoring eminent domain reform,” stated Marc Scribner, land-use and transportation policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a Washington-based free-market think tank and PRCT coalition member.  “However, like many politicians, words speak far louder than actions. The so-called reforms included in SB 18 do very little to enhance property rights protections in Texas. On the contrary, this bait-and-switch allows government bureaucrats to continue seizing private property for arbitrary reasons while tricking Texans into believing their land and homes are safe. Hopefully, the governor and legislature will support pro-property rights legislation in the near future—to be able to make that leap from mere rhetoric to substantive reform.”
 
“The bill leaves property owners vulnerable to laws governing surplus land,” said Paul Westmoreland, a PRCT coalition member. “Parcels can be labeled as ‘surplus’ by a condemning entity if the land is no longer deemed necessary for the project for which it was taken—one of many problems with the repurchase sections and the combining of parcels. The state can keep surplus land indefinitely, which undermines the already weak repurchase provision in SB 18.”
 
“If Governor Perry wants to deliver on his promise and protect property owners or fixing the state’s broken eminent domain laws than he should be pushing legislation that actually solves the problem instead of making it worse,” concluded Westmoreland.  
 
 
PRCT is calling for provisions that increase transparency, establish due process, ensure landowners are adequately compensated for their property, and make private interests and condemning entities accountable for any egregious practices. PRCT is touting their bill, the Property Rights Protection Act (PRPA), as an example of real eminent domain reform and the bill they think lawmakers should be considering.
 
Click here for more information about the Property Rights Protection Act
 
Members of the Property Rights Coalition of Texas (PRCT) include:
Texans Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG)
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (Texas TURF)
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)
Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)
Institute for Liberty
Property Rights Alliance
Freedom Action
Public Citizen
Selous Foundation
We Texans
Texans for Accountable Government (TAG)
Stop Tarsands Oil Pipeline
Property owners and landowners from across the state of Texas
 
 
#   #   #   #   #
 
TexPIRG a non-profit, non-partisan consumer advocacy organization

Phillips' bill resurrects Trans Texas Corridor

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bills resurrect the Trans Texas Corridor

Contracts kept SECRET from the public, where taxpayers pay toll rates of 75 cents per mile, pay private company for any losses

(Austin, TX - March 29, 2011)  The Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) just won’t die. State Representative Larry Phillips has introduced HB 3789 which resurrects the TTC, without the reviled name attached. It’s a betrayal of Texans who were promised by nearly every elected official in the state that the TTC was DEAD.  Many believed it and voted to re-elect Rick Perry and others who swore it was over.

The Texas Senate just passed the first bill, SB 1007, that would sell-off our public roads to the highest bidder on Wall Street (ie - private toll operator) for portions of the Grand Pkwy (SH 99 around Houston). There’s a flurry of other bills to do the same for other specific projects (listed on the Grassroots Action Center of the TURF web site), and several that give blanket authorization for other Texas infrastructure including highways (HB 3789, HB 2801, SB 1651), mass transit facilities; transmission and distribution systems; hospitals; schools; recreational facilities; public buildings; and technology infrastructure, services, applications, and even parking (HB 2432). There are 28 bills (about half are identical, companion bills) total that would sell our public infrastructure to private corporations in some fashion.
From the text of HB 2432:
(10) "Qualifying project" means:                      

(A) any ferry, mass transit facility, vehicle   parking facility, port facility, fuel supply facility, oil or gas   pipeline, transmission system, distribution system, water supply   facility, public work, waste treatment facility,   telecommunications or automated data processing facility,   hospital, school, medical or nursing care facility, recreational   facility, public building, or other similar facility currently   available or to be made available to a governmental entity for   public use, including any structure, parking area, appurtenance,   and other property required to operate the structure or facility; technology infrastructure, services, and   applications, including:                            (i)  telecommunications, automated data   processing, and word processing and management information systems; and related information, equipment,   goods, and services; any services designed to increase the productivity or efficiency of the responsible governmental entity   through the use of technology or other means; or any improvements necessary or desirable to   unimproved real estate owned by a governmental entity.                

A little history is in order. The Trans Texas Corridor as originally envisioned was a 1,200 foot wide, 4,000 mile network of toll roads that would have criss-crossed the state. It was multi-modal including tollways, trucks lanes, commuter rail, freight rail, power transmission lines,  telecommunications, pipelines of all sorts…a terrorist’s dream. It would have displaced one million Texans for just the first corridor alone. The concessionaire would also have the exclusive right to develop all the restaurants, hotels, and gas stations along its tollway.

The TTC was to heist 580,000 acres of land from Texas landowners and hand them over to private, for-profit global toll concessionaires in sweetheart deals that amount to government-sanctioned monopolies for a half century. Hence, that’s why it was dubbed the biggest land grab in Texas history, if not in the entire United States.

Trans Texas Corridor repealed?
Now back to the 82nd legislative session we find ourselves in. First, the bill to supposedly repeal the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), HB 1201, got hitched with a bad amendment to enrich the coffers of the Spanish-based company, Cintra, that is currently building the first leg of the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 project, called SH 130 segments 5 & 6.

This amendment allows TxDOT to raise the speed limit on Cintra’s tollway beyond the current legal limit up to 85 MPH for which TxDOT gets a bigger pay-off from Cintra (the theory is it would incentivize more traffic to take the high speed tollway so Cintra’s willing to pay the highway department for the anticipated bump in toll revenue).
The higher the speed limit, the greater the share of the toll revenues TxDOT splits with the foreign company, too (view Ex. 7 of the PPP contract with Cintra here). HB 1201 passed out of committee a few weeks ago. So even the repeal bill was tainted by special interests.

Trans Texas Corridor re-authorized
Within days of hearing HB 1201, Phillips filed HB 3789 which is a blanket re-authorization of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and recreates the Trans Texas Corridor. It would grant the private toll road developers control of not only the toll lanes, but also non-toll lanes, frontage roads, buildings on the tollway, parking areas, rest stops, ancillary facilities, etc., just like the Trans Texas Corridor. It’s eminent domain for private gain all over again, which is what caused a Texas-sized backlash against the TTC in earnest in 2007, when a moratorium on PPPs was put in place. With the exception of a few projects, the contracts expired in August of 2009.
Though the bill deletes the words Trans Texas Corridor (under Section 223.202), the bill subsequently references Chapter 223 of the Transportation Code [Section 284.003 (a) 7], which is the chapter that authorizes the financing mechanism behind the Trans Texas Corridor, and allows the contracts to proceed under the new guidelines of Phillips’ bill (which have less restrictions and public protections than under the previous moratorium).

Public money for private profits
PPPs are sweetheart deals that have profit guarantees, massive public subsidies (ALL Texans' gas taxes), low interest taxpayer-backed loans (TIFIA loans or Private Activity Bonds), and non-compete agreements that prohibit or penalize the expansion of surrounding free roads (makes the taxpayers pay the private toll operator for any loss in toll revenue if competing free roads are built). We're seeing published toll rates for these types of contracts at 75 CENTS PER MILE to drive in peak hours. PPPs socialize the losses and privatize the profits for a HALF CENTURY.

“Rarely are efforts to undermine the popular will as clear as they have been this session, especially given the litany of irresponsible private toll road bills that have been filed in the House Transportation Committee,” said Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG).  “The public has protested privatized toll roads since Governor Perry first announced his plans to build the unpopular Trans Texas Corridor (TTC). Now, almost a decade later, Chairman Larry Phillips of the House Transportation Committee is proposing legislation to resurrect the TTC, a project state transportation officials once claimed was dead.”

Continues Cubria, “Chairman Phillips’ private toll road legislation includes no public safeguards nor does it protect property owners from profit driven land grabs for economic development purposes. While TTC-style private toll roads offer a hard-to-resist ‘quick fix’ for states facing huge budget shortfalls, they cost taxpayers more in the end, through the rising tolls they pay for generations, revenue which is not collected for public use.”
 
Public interest not protected, kept secret from public
HB 3789 would allow these PPP contracts to be negotiated and signed in SECRET, without financial disclosures (like toll rates, whether or not it contains a non-compete clause that prohibits or penalizes the expansion of free roads, or public subsidies), and it grants sole authority to TxDOT or a toll entity to negotiate the contract, removing oversight by the Attorney General, Legislative Budget Board, or any elected officials. The bill re-authorizes these PPPs and this time with NO sunset provision, so the authority is indefinite.

Phillips was appointed by Speaker Joe Straus to Chair the House Transportation Committee. Since the bill is authored by the Chair of the committee, it’s almost certain to pass the committee, unless Texans REVOLT as they have in years past. This bill will be heard on Wednesday in the House Transportation Committee in Rm. E2.028, which starts at 8:00 AM.

TURF is asking Texans to call Speaker Joe Straus to ask him to bury the Trans Texas Corridor re-tread bill, HB 3789, and ensure the bill to actually repeal the TTC FINALLY becomes law.  


A coalition of groups are coming together to oppose the HB 3789, and any bill that advances Trans Texas Corridor-style agreements, including TURF, TexPIRG, We Texans, GRIT, Texas Eagle Forum, Campaign for Liberty, Texas Republican Liberty Caucus, Texans for Accountable Government, and the Galveston County Tea Party.

To view the entire bill, HB 3789, go here.

House Committee passes eminent domain

Eminent Domain legislation inches toward reform, but still falls short

AUSTIN, March 22, 2011—Property rights activists and members of the Property Rights Coalition of Texas are commending members of the House Land and Resource Management Committee for helping to protect property rights of Texans today. Committee members voted unanimously to pass an amended version of SB 18, which includes provisions to help establish due process, ensure landowners are adequately compensated for their property, and makes private interests and condemning entities more accountable to landowners.

“On behalf of the Property Rights Coalition of Texas, I would like to thank Chairman Oliveira and Vice Chair Kleinschmidt for their leadership on this bill and all members of the committee for voting to adopt the Kleinschmidt/ Oliveira amendments,” said Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) and co-founder of PRCT.

While PRCT is pleased that the Land and Resources made some improvements to the bill, coalition members acknowledge that to there are still significant changes that must be made to the bill as it heads to the House floor for debate. PRCT is calling on lawmakers to include strong language that defines critical terms, which will help enforce and strengthen landowner protections in the bill. They are pushing lawmakers to adopt the language “necessary public use” in the bill, which will protect  landowners from future eminent domain abuses and profit-driven land grabs for economic development purposes.

”We’re glad to see the Committee made some positive changes to SB 18 on the remedy side, but to truly protect property rights, the bill needs to say any taking must be NECESSARY for that public use,” says Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and co-founder of the PRCT.

Cubria echoed that sentiment: “The easiest, simplest thing to do to protect property owners from unfair land grabs would be to add the word necessary to the definition of public use. Without the strict definition for ‘necessary public use,’ private corporations can condemn a landowner’s property, build a private toll road and claim that they did so in the name of public use. After all, the Trans-Texas Corridor was packaged as a ‘Community Development Association.’”

“We are thankful for the genuine concern expressed by House Land and Resource Management Committee members over the lack of property rights protections embedded in SB 18, but it is truly disappointing that so many elected officials believe they can hoodwink their constituents by empty rhetoric on property rights,” said Marc Scribner, land-use and transportation policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank based in Washington, D.C. and PRCT member. “Legislators still have the opportunity to do the right thing, which is to reign in the government’s power to condemn private property for dubious reasons. Hopefully, they will heed the wishes of the public and support amendments that offer meaningful property rights protections. Otherwise, they will be turning a blind eye to the founding principles of this country: individual liberty and limited government.”

Where should the $2 billion go? Fix US 281 without tolls

Taxpayers want US 281 fixed without tolls

(San Antonio, TX) - TxDOT recently 'found' $2 billion in extra money ($700 million anticipated from the federal government and $1.3 billion gained from 'efficiencies').

"The San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and ALL of our local elected leaders have the obligation to aggressively seek enough of these funds to fix US 281 WITHOUT TOLLS," contends Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. "The controversy surrounding the US 281 project has gone on long enough. The citizens have spoken out against tolling US 281 by overwhelming majorities, forcing two lawsuits to stop the toll road. Enough is enough. Let's move forward without saddling already stressed commuters with higher taxes, tolls, to get to work."

Lawmakers to divert $2 BILLION in gas taxes to non-road uses


IMMEDIATE RELEASE

House budget to divert $2 billion in gas taxes while asking Texans to pay hefty tolls

(February 24, 2011, Austin, TX) With budget writers citing fiscal restraint and claiming to "balance the budget without raising taxes," a closer look says otherwise. When lawmakers propose to DOUBLE the diversions this biennium (up to $2.3 billion compared with $1.2 billion last biennium) and continue to cannibalize gas taxes to fund seven different state agencies' employee benefits, programs in the Department of Insurance, among other non-road uses, the claim that we're 'out of money for roads' and therefore need to toll nearly every road in Texas is disingenuous and fiscally reckless. Over a HALF BILLION is going to fund the State Employee Retirement System (ERS) alone.

A dozen lawmakers have been very vocal about ending gas tax diversions, like former transportation committee chairmen Sen. John Carona and Rep. Joe Pickett. Several, like Rep. Ken Paxton, Rep. Linda Harper-Brown and Senators Robert Nichols and Jeff Wentworth, have either introduced bills ending diversions (either in part or whole) or bills to dedicate other existing road and vehicle taxes solely to highways, rather than being dumped into general revenue.

Tolls are taxes
By starving the gas tax, it's forced a reliance on toll roads. Tolls are a tax, and the most expensive way to fund roads. So claims by state leaders that they're not raising taxes and being fiscally responsible isn't being honest with taxpayers. This isn't truth in taxation -- it's a grand deception. With gas at over $3/gallon and many Texans being squeezed by the down economy, now more than ever politicians need to prioritize spending and cut the fat.

After habitually raiding gas taxes, the Legislature needs to make restitution for those funds, not ask cash-strapped Texans to pay more for their roads through prolific toll taxes, particularly privatized toll roads with toll rates as high as 75 cents PER MILE, which is like adding $15 to every gallon of gas you buy.
Get our ' fiscal house in order'
It's time to get our fiscal house in order. No more shell games and false claims that we're 'out of money' for roads when the taxes being sent to Austin aren't actually being used for their intended purpose. State gas taxes (known as Fund 6) have become a slush fund instead of a constitutionally dedicated fund for roads.

"This is not a one-time emergency measure but a routine occurrence," says Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG). "The state's gas tax is placed into a cookie jar, also known as State Highway Fund 6 and every year officials help themselves to as many cookies as it takes to plug the holes in Texas' budget."

The coming 'Debt Bomb'
Perhaps most disturbing is the Legislature's trend in relying on borrowing and debt to fund roads (primarily to subsidize double tax toll roads), rather than dedicate existing road taxes to highways. With the State now $31 BILLION in debt for roads, we're on an unsustainable trajectory that's more aptly called a DEBT BOMB.

The Grant Thornton Audit also called the borrowing 'unsustainable' and laid the blame on the Texas Legislature for increasing TxDOT's baseline budget with debt that's now eating up more and more of our money for 'free' roads with debt service. In fact, they're having to open fully paid for roads (SH 45SE) as toll roads to try and cover the debt of failing toll roads.

Necessitates more private toll roads
"The state's already dwindling gas tax fund is raided routinely without leaving sufficient reserves for basic road repairs and much-needed maintenance. The process lacks transparency and the dishonest charade has resulted in systematic shortfalls that encourage state officials to seek short-sighted methods to fund road projects. It has fueled the state's dependence on unpopular private toll road deals called Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs) or Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)," notes Cubria.

The proposed state budget includes $1 million/yr in taxpayer money to review CDAs. It also shows 15,000 hours of legal time to review these contracts. How is this a fiscally conservative use of taxpayer money?

Reverse the spending spree
When state spending as a percentage of population has nearly tripled in the last 20 years and doubled under Rick Perry, would the sky fall if they rolled back spending to, say, 2005 levels to get some more money for roads? Compare the necessity of roads to Rick Perry's Texas Enterprise Fund (corporate welfare for his buddies) and Film & Music Marketing Fund and the misplaced priorities are glaring, and, quite frankly, offensive.

TAKE ACTION

Find your Texas STATE representatives here or call the Capitol switchboard directly at (512) 463-4630. Tell them to end ALL gas tax diversions and make restitution for the gas tax funds they've STOLEN from highways.

Eminent domain bill fails landowners

SB 18 sails through Texas Senate

Does NOT protect landowners from eminent domain for private gain


(Austin, TX - February 9, 2011) Today, the Texas Senate passed Governor Rick Perry's fast-tracked 'emergency' eminent domain bill, SB 18. The grassroots don't think the bill goes far enough because it still fails to protect landowners from Kelo abuses (ie -  blight, economic development, foreign-owned toll roads). It looks great in parts of subsection "b" only to undo it with all the exceptions under subsection "c." The bill continues the authority of private entities to benefit from eminent domain in the name of a laundry list of various "public uses." (See the bill's loophole-laden language below)

Sen. Leticia Van De Putte questioned some of the vague language in the bill and asked, "Doesn't this open it up to lawsuits?" to which she got no assurances that it wouldn't.

Many lawmakers are telling Texans that SB 18 takes care of Kelo and addresses their concerns when the plain reading of this bill says otherwise. Eminent domain for private gain became the centerpiece of the public blowback to Rick Perry's Trans Texas Corridor and push for foreign-owned toll roads across Texas.

"After four previous attempts to protect Texas landowners from eminent domain for private gain, lawmakers either can't get it right or won't get it right. Either way, it's unacceptable. Texans deserve to be told the truth and to be given true protection from eminent domain for private gain, not have their lawmakers tell them they have it when they don't," noted TURF Founder Terri Hall. "Texans know they can't trust Rick Perry on eminent domain, this bill proves the leopard hasn't changed his spots. With quotes like this one from the bill's author, Senator Craig Estes, in the Star-Telegram February 6, lawmakers may just encounter a Trans Texas Corridor-style uprising:

'Every word in there has been carefully crafted,' said Estes, whose district includes Parker, Wise, and parts of Denton and Collin counties. 'Nobody is 100 percent happy, which means it's a pretty good bill.'

Accordingly, Estes said he will fight any amendment to ward off even the slightest change that could unravel the compromise.

'I don't care if your amendment turns lead into gold. It's not going to happen if I can help it,' Estes said. 'Any bill can be made better, but when you have all the major interest groups on board, let's don't let perfection get in the way of something that's good for Texas.'"

In committee, Estes quipped that SB 18 was a special interests bill, then tried to back-track and say all Texans are a "special interest." An eminent domain attorney who represents landowners in eminent domain cases said this bill was a "lobbyist's dream."

The grassroots want language in the bill that would prevent ANY eminent domain for private gain, no exceptions. Melissa Cubria of Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) concurs: “Officials fast tracked legislation masked as eminent domain reform through the Senate today without giving the public adequate opportunity to participate in the process. Cloaked in the guise of eminent domain reform, Texas State Senators rammed through legislation that will benefit utility companies, the oil and gas industry, real estate developers and even private toll road investors before it ever has the opportunity to work on behalf of the citizens and landowners of Texas.
 
“There are so many loopholes in SB 18, it is hard to know where the bill begins and ends,” Cubria continues. “Critical terms that will protect landowners are defined so weakly it’s hard to read their text on the page."
 
“Unless members in the House close loopholes, strengthen the language in the bill and include meaningful public that protect landowners from cronyism and conflicts of interest, SB18 is like the Trans Texas Corridor on steroids—minus the private toll roads—but we can expect to see a bill to reauthorize those coming down the pipeline any day now.”

____________________________________________

By: Estes, Duncan
S.B. No. 18
 
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 
AN ACT
 
relating to the use of eminent domain authority.
 
       BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
 
       SECTION 1.  Chapter 2206, Government Code, is amended to
 
read as follows:
 
CHAPTER 2206.  [LIMITATIONS ON USE OF] EMINENT DOMAIN
 
SUBCHAPTER A. LIMITATIONS ON PURPOSE AND USE OF PROPERTY ACQUIRED
 
THROUGH EMINENT DOMAIN
 
       Sec. 2206.001.  LIMITATION ON EMINENT DOMAIN FOR PRIVATE
 
PARTIES OR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PURPOSES.  (a)  This section
 
applies to the use of eminent domain under the laws of this state,
 
including a local or special law, by any governmental or private
 
entity, including:
 
             (1)  a state agency, including an institution of higher
 
education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code;
 
             (2)  a political subdivision of this state; or
 
             (3)  a corporation created by a governmental entity to
 
act on behalf of the entity.
 
       (b)  A governmental or private entity may not take private
 
property through the use of eminent domain if the taking:
 
             (1)  confers a private benefit on a particular private
 
party through the use of the property;
 
             (2)  is for a public use that is merely a pretext to
 
confer a private benefit on a particular private party; [or]
 
             (3)  is for economic development purposes, unless the
 
economic development is a secondary purpose resulting from
 
municipal community development or municipal urban renewal
 
activities to eliminate an existing affirmative harm on society
 
from slum or blighted areas under:
 
                   (A)  Chapter 373 or 374, Local Government Code,
 
other than an activity described by Section 373.002(b)(5), Local
 
Government Code; or
 
                   (B)  Section 311.005(a)(1)(I), Tax Code; or
 
             (4)  is not for a public use.
 
       (c)  This section does not affect the authority of an entity
 
authorized by law to take private property through the use of
 
eminent domain for:
 
             (1)  transportation projects, including, but not
 
limited to, railroads, airports, or public roads or highways;
 
             (2)  entities authorized under Section 59, Article XVI,
 
Texas Constitution, including:
 
                   (A)  port authorities;
 
                   (B)  navigation districts; and
 
                   (C)  any other conservation or reclamation
 
districts that act as ports;
 
             (3)  water supply, wastewater, flood control, and
 
drainage projects;
 
             (4)  public buildings, hospitals, and parks;
 
             (5)  the provision of utility services;
 
             (6)  a sports and community venue project approved by
 
voters at an election held on or before December 1, 2005, under
 
Chapter 334 or 335, Local Government Code;
 
             (7)  the operations of:
 
                   (A)  a common carrier pipeline [subject to Chapter
 
111, Natural Resources Code, and Section B(3)(b), Article 2.01,
 
Texas Business Corporation Act]; or
 
                   (B)  an energy transporter, as that term is
 
defined by Section 186.051, Utilities Code;
 
             (8)  a purpose authorized by Chapter 181, Utilities
 
Code;
 
             (9)  underground storage operations subject to Chapter
 
91, Natural Resources Code;
 
             (10)  a waste disposal project; or
 
             (11)  a library, museum, or related facility and any
 
infrastructure related to the facility.
 
       (d)  This section does not affect the authority of a
 
governmental entity to condemn a leasehold estate on property owned
 
by the governmental entity.
 
       (e)  The determination by the governmental or private entity
 
proposing to take the property that the taking does not involve an
 
act or circumstance prohibited by Subsection (b) does not create a
 
presumption with respect to whether the taking involves that act or
 
circumstance.

To view the rest of the bill, go here.

White says 'No' to private toll contracts

IMMEDIATE RELEASE


White says ‘No’ to private toll contracts
Not in favor of selling Texas roads to private, foreign toll operators

(Austin, TX - October 20, 2010) Though the “official” transportation question at Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate never got asked by the Star Telegram’s Dave Montgomery (they ran out of time), TURF Director Terri Hall asked her most burning question to the former Mayor of Houston Bill White directly afterwards: “What do you think of these contracts that sell Texas highways to foreign companies?” White didn’t hesitate to answer, “No, I don’t support that.”

Governor Rick Perry’s no show gave the candidates vying for his job the opportunity to spend an hour telling voters why Perry needs to go. Libertarian candidate Kathie Glass had the best zingers like this one when asked if there is anything positive Perry has done for Texas: “Since Perry supposedly only works 7 hours a week on state business, I can’t imagine the shape we’d be in if he actually worked full time.”

Perry’s about ‘theater instead of management’
White offered the most practical approach to governing, focusing on building consensus. He, too, criticized Perry’s light work schedule and said he’s “more about theater instead of management.”

White repeatedly leveled criticism of Perry for the onslaught of revelations about how he’s steered public money, contracts, and plum political appointments to campaign donors and for the revolving door between the Governor’s office and lobbyists.

TxDOT blunders must be fixed

Both White and Glass took swipes at the mismanagement of TxDOT with White condemning the $1 billion accounting error and Glass using the accounting error to call for cleaning up and cutting jobs at the embattled highway department, “TxDOT misplaces a billion dollars like I misplace my car keys.”

Each candidate gave a two minute closing. Again, White was pragmatic and spoke of policy initiatives like college tuition being too high while Glass addressed the “wasted vote” perception that third party candidates find difficult to overcome.

“The two top guys spent $40 million trying to convince you the other guy is not fit for office. I agree with both of them,” quipped Glass. Then she went on to say that Perry has taken the conservative base for granted and still “won’t respect you in the morning” come November 3 if he’s re-elected.

Council to vote to give toll authority BAILOUT on loan

IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Council to vote to give toll authority BAILOUT on loan

Says repayment a ‘financial hardship’ on the RMA

(San Antonio, TX, October 13, 2010) Thursday, the San Antonio City Council is set to vote to extend its $500,000 loan to the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) for one year. The RMA is officially in DEFAULT and says it doesn't have the money to pay the loan back until it has a revenue stream (ie - tolls) to pay it back. City staff claim to require payment of the loan would pose a “financial hardship” on the RMA. It’s only available revenue stream is toll roads, which has led to widespread controversy, litigation, and public backlash.

“Instead of axing the dead weight of a toll road bureaucracy that's used up $40 million in taxpayer money and that draws $1.2 million annually in salaries for just 10 people, they're planning to vote to give the RMA a one year extension on its loan. What about the ‘financial hardship’ of tolls in perpetuity on the taxpayers?” asks TURF Founder Terri Hall.

“A vote to extend this loan is, in effect, an RMA bailout. A vote to extend is a vote FOR toll roads. Guess what that means? Your taxes are going to go up to keep this tax-sucking entity alive! If you and I couldn't pay back a loan, we'd be in foreclosure, have our car repossessed, or go bankrupt. It's time to PULL THE PLUG on the RMA!”

The item is on the consent agenda, which means it'll be voted on in a group with other items. It's not even up for discussion. TURF is urging its supporters to call councilmembers and ask them to pull the item and vote to NOT extend the loan, but cut its losses and close down the RMA.

The loan controversy comes on the heels of Mayor Julian Castro’s meeting  with the President just yesterday about 281/1604. Express-News columnist Scott Stroud hinted at the possibility of getting the roads fixed without tolls as being a political coup for Castro. Thursday’s vote will be a big test of Castro and the city council’s willingness to cast a vote for tolls, knowing the community opposition to them.

Ag Commissioner, Staples, no friend of property rights

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Staples pushed Trans Texas Corridor, no friend of property rights


(SAN ANTONIO, TX - September 20, 2010) Terri Hall, of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), released the following statement in response to Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples' Thursday press conference on eminent domain reform. Staples is seeking re-election amidst Texans' outrage over the Trans Texas Corridor and the eminent domain abuses it created.  

BEGIN STATEMENT: "I find it offensive when politicians use the sacred right of Texans to protect their property from unjust government takings through eminent domain for their own personal and political gain. Enough with election year platitudes, actions speak louder than words. Let's look at Todd Staples' actions. He has FAILED to prevent gas tax theft and properly inspect gas pumps across the state (go here to see recent revelations about rampant gas tax theft due to stations falling through the cracks), and he's only encouraged eminent domain abuse by voting to create the Trans Texas Corridor when he was a legislator.

"So Staples' new-found zeal for protecting property rights is not exactly sincere. During his entire tenure in the legislature, he did not author or pass one single piece of legislation to protect property or landowners from eminent domain abuses. He voted for the legislation authorizing the Trans-Texas Corridor and sponsored legislation preventing landowners from negotiating directly with the toll operators along the path of the Trans-Texas Corridor to develop businesses along the corridor. However, he allowed the state to lease a private citizens' condemned land to private companies. This same bill, HB 2702, also severely limited the rights of property owners whose land was to be bisected by the corridor.

“In addition to all of this, Staples essentially served as the official spokesperson for a major effort by the political action committee of an insurance company to encourage Texans to pass a fundamentally flawed constitutional amendment, Prop 11, that did little to really protect Texans from eminent domain takings, but instead gave voters a false sense of security.

For Todd Staples to stand up this week and say Texas needs stronger laws to protect citizens from eminent domain takings is comical. It is an admission to the voters of this state that he sold them a flawed constitutional amendment to further his own political career.

His record on transportation isn’t any better. Staples authored legislation to make EVERY Texas taxpayer subsidize loser toll projects that can’t pay for themselves. ‘Staples’ bill removes an $800 million-a-year lid on tax subsidies of toll roads…’ [SOURCE: Austin American Statesman, May 12, 2005].

“Todd Staples has also taken thousands of dollars from Zachry Construction, its executives, and its PAC. Zachry is the San Antonio-based company that along with two Spanish-based companies, CINTRA and ACS, won the development rights to two TTC corridors, TTC-35 and TTC-69.”

NEW 'Truth Be Tolled: 281 Special Edition' to premiere in San Antonio

Link to Truth Be Tolled web site here.


 Watch more trailers:

Trailer 3

Trailer 2

Trailer 1
___________________________________________________________________________________

PRESS RELEASE

New documentary shines the light on the citizens' fight against tolling 281 and the Trans Texas Corridor

Official Selection of The 2010 WorldFest-Houston International Film and Video Festival and Gold Award recipient premieres in San Antonio September 30



EVENT INFORMATION -

NEW Truth Be Tolled Film Premiere
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Palladium Theater
17703 W IH-10
San Antonio, TX 78257

Event Timeline:
-- KTSA's Kevin Wall to broadcast LIVE from theater! (4-5:30 PM)
-- Meet the Cast & Crew Reception - 6:00 PM

Author Matt Dellinger will also be on hand for a book signing on his new book about Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69.

-- Film begins - 7:00 PM
-- Q & A after the film


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Storm Pictures LLC has just completed an entirely new special edition of William H. Molina’s award-winning feature documentary, 'Truth Be Tolled: 281 Special Edition,' which documents and exposes the controversial truth behind the tolling of US Highway 281 and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The 281 Special Edition chronicles the dramatic events that emerge during public meetings, environmental lawsuits, press conferences and a State Legislative session plagued by back room deals, secret contracts, and corrupt leadership. The documentary also exposes the truth about the Trans-Texas Corridor, a threat still alive for many ranchers, farmers and residents that sit in its path (only one-quarter of the corridor is truly "dead").

“This is not just one toll road, it's a sweeping new policy -- every new lane, every new road in the State of Texas, with few exceptions, is slated to become a toll road. There are 57 toll projects on the books for Bexar County alone,” reveals Terri Hall, a home-schooling mother turned anti-toll activist who has led the grassroots effort to halt the proliferation of toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The Texas Department of Transportation is so entangled in its own shortcomings that the Sunset Commission declares, “Until trust is restored at TxDOT, the state can not effectively meet its transportation needs.”

Government and unelected bureaucracies have figured a way to make money on public infrastructure.  The current plan is to convert existing right of ways, already paid and funded by taxpayers, into tollways and hand them over to foreign and private interests without so much as a public vote. Citizens are crying "highway robbery."

The political establishment is not listening to the people, but their voices will be heard.

NEW Truth Be Tolled to premiere at Houston Film Festival Tuesday


PRESS ADVISORY

Contacts: Terri Hall, Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, (210) 275-0640 Bill Molina, Storm Pictures, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
WEB: www.TexasTURF.org / www.TruthBeTolled.com

Feature Documentary Sheds More Truth on Trans-Texas Corridor and Toll Roads


Houston, TX - “Truth Be Tolled: The 281 Special Edition,” a newly completed feature documentary from Storm Pictures, has been nominated for a 2010 Remi Award and will premiere as an Official Selection of The 43rd Annual WorldFest Houston International Film and Video Festival on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 5 pm at AMC Theaters, 2949 Dunvale, Houston, Texas 77063. This new film documents the bitter fight in the Alamo City behind the controversial plan to toll an existing freeway, US Highway 281.

WHAT: NEW Truth Be Tolled documentary to win top award and will premiere at Houston Film Festival
WHEN: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM
WHERE: AMC Theaters, 2949 Dunvale, Houston, Texas, 77063

Director William H. Molina has chronicled public meetings, press conferences, environmental lawsuits and citizen protests that erupt and eventually culminate in a State Legislative session plagued by back-room deals, loop-holed bills and turncoat leadership.

The 281 Special Edition follows a trail of federal stimulus funds, comprehensive development agreements and lobbying efforts that pave the way to ultimately privatize public infrastructure. The documentary also exposes the truth about the Trans-Texas Corridor, a threat still alive for many ranchers, farmers and residents that sit in its path.

“This is not just one toll road, this is going to be an entire new policy, every new lane, every new road in the State of Texas is slated to become a toll road, if they can make it toll viable,” states Terri Hall, a home-schooling mother turned activist who leads a grassroots effort to halt the proliferation of tolling plans and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The Texas Department of Transportation is so entangled in its own shortcomings that the Sunset Commission declares, “Until trust is restored at TxDOT, the state can not effectively meet its transportation needs.”

There will be a question and answer period with cast and crew after the screening.

For more information, see the following links:
http://www.truthbetolled.com/

Film Trailers also on You Tube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUF9eVBzeLk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwewG4ufNDQ

Perry & TxDOT continue to lie about tolling existing freeways

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Perry’s debate fib about state law prohibiting tolling existing freeways repeated in news report

(Wednesday, February 3, 2010) Confusion persists about whether or not it is legal to convert free highway lanes into toll lanes in the state of Texas, despite Governor Rick Perry’s claim that it is illegal during the January 29 Republican gubernatorial debate. In an article in the Dallas Morning News February 1, TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott stated:

"’The department has made it clear that we have no interest in tolling existing lanes,’ Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Chris Lippincott said this afternoon, when told of the Obama budget provision. ‘Whether we are prohibited from doing so in federal law is irrelevant,’ he said.

The article goes on to say...

“And it wouldn't be easy, even if the state's Transportation Commission didn't have a policy in place that effectively abides by the moratorium. To turn a freeway (or even a single lane of existing roadway) into a toll road, TEXDOT would need a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration. These are granted only rarely. Then, state law requires approval from the county commissioners and then from a county's voters.”

Terri Hall, Founder of Texas TURF counters, “Not only is TxDOT planning to toll existing lanes, they're lying about it. The feds are not only aware of the plans for US 281 in San Antonio in particular, it had already granted clearance until we sued to stop them. So rare or not, the feds granted it.”


Perry's greatest fib of the January 29 debate was his insistence that the Texas legislature passed a bill in 2005 prohibiting the conversion of free lanes to toll lanes. However, the bill, HB 2702, tells precisely how TxDOT can LEGALLY convert existing highway lanes into toll lanes through 6 exceptions, one that allows a conversion of free lanes by simply downgrading the free lanes to access roads adjacent to the tollway.

Though the language doesn’t specifically use the term “access roads” to refer to the relocating of free lanes adjacent to the tollway, TxDOT has consistently interpreted the law to mean it has the authority to downgrade freeway lanes to access roads without triggering a public vote based on HB 2702. See the two-part discussion of this law before the Sunset Commission in 2008 here and here. Part-two shows TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz stating TxDOT’s interpretation of HB 2702 allows highway lanes to be downgraded to access roads.

The bill also contains a gaping grandfather clause that exempts virtually all the toll projects currently on the table (because they were designated as toll roads in MPO plans prior to September of 2005), so no public vote would be triggered for the dozens of grandfathered toll projects.

“Perry's elitist ‘you can eat cake’ attitude is this: if you can't afford the toll lanes, you can sit in congestion on the stop-light ridden access roads. He thinks replacing free highway lanes with access roads is acceptable and his highway department is doing it all over Texas,” says Hall.

The citizens’ fight to stop the conversion of existing FREEway lanes into toll lanes on US 281 and Loop 1604 in San Antonio, 290 West in Austin, and Hwy 59 in East Texas (part of Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 that’s still alive and well), has languished precisely because of the loopholes in HB 2702.

TURF worked 24/7 in the last session to fix these loopholes. Rep. David Leibowitz of San Antonio introduced a bill to do so and got it attached to the TxDOT sunset bill (but it was stripped in the Senate).

“Texans deserve protection from the DOUBLE TAXATION of converting freeways into tollways. Perry was dead wrong to imply Texans are protected in state law. They’re not, especially for the exempted Trans Texas Corridors, like TTC-69, that will ‘upgrade’ existing freeways (like Hwy 59) into tollways at the hands of foreign companies,” Hall emphasized.

See detailed proof of the freeway to tollway conversion plans for US 281 on this web site: http://www.281overpassesnow.com.

Portion of HB 2702 that addresses converting existing highways into toll roads –

SECTION 2.36. Chapter 228, Transportation Code, is amended
by adding Subchapter E to read as follows: SUBCHAPTER E. LIMITATION ON TOLL FACILITY DETERMINATION; CONVERSION OF NONTOLLED STATE HIGHWAY Sec. 228.201. LIMITATION ON TOLL FACILITY DESIGNATION.
Except as provided by Section 228.2015, the department may not operate a nontolled state highway or a segment of a nontolled state highway as a toll project, and may not transfer a highway or segment to another entity for operation as a toll project, unless: (1) the commission by order designated the highway or segment as a toll project before the contract to construct the highway or segment was awarded; (2) the highway or segment was open to traffic as a turnpike project on or before September 1, 2005; (3) the project was designated as a toll project in a plan or program of a metropolitan planning organization on or before September 1, 2005; (4) the highway or segment is reconstructed so that the number of nontolled lanes on the highway or segment is greater than or equal to the number in existence before the reconstruction; (5) a facility is constructed adjacent to the highway or segment so that the number of nontolled lanes on the converted highway or segment and the adjacent facility together is greater than or equal to the number in existence on the converted highway or segment before the conversion; or (6) the commission converts the highway or segment to a toll facility by: (A) making the determination required by Section 228.202; (B) conducting the hearing required by Section 228.203; and (C) obtaining county and voter approval as required by Sections 228.207 and 228.208.

Sec. 228.2015. LIMITATION TRANSITION. (a) Notwithstanding
Section 228.201, the department may operate a nontolled state
highway or a segment of a nontolled state highway as a toll project
if: (1) a construction contract was awarded for the highway or segment before September 1, 2005; (2) the highway or segment had not at any time before September 1, 2005, been open to traffic; and (3) the commission designated the highway or segment as a toll project before the earlier of: (A) the date the highway or segment is opened to traffic; or (B) September 1, 2005. (b) This section expires September 1, 2006.

SECTION 2.37. Section 362.0041, Transportation Code, is
transferred to Subchapter E, Chapter 228, Transportation Code,
redesignated as Sections 228.202-228.208, and amended to read as
follows:
Sec. 228.202 [362.0041 ]. COMMISSION DETERMINATION [CONVERSION OF PROJECTS ]. The [(a) Except as provided in Subsections (d) and (g), the ] commission may by order convert a nontolled state highway or a segment of a nontolled state highway [the free state highway system ] to a toll project [facility ] if it determines that the conversion will improve overall mobility in the region or is the most feasible and economic means to accomplish necessary expansion, improvements, or extensions to that segment of the state highway system.

Sec. 228.203. PUBLIC HEARING. [(b) ] Prior to converting a state highway or a segment of a[the ] state highway [ system ] under
this subchapter [section ], the commission shall conduct a public
hearing for the purpose of receiving comments from interested
persons concerning the proposed conversion [transfer ]. Notice of
the hearing shall be published in the Texas Register, one or more
newspapers of general circulation, and a newspaper, if any,
published in the county or counties in which the involved highway is
located. Sec. 228.204. RULES. [(c) ] The commission shall adopt
rules implementing this subchapter [section ], including criteria and guidelines for the approval of a conversion of a highway. Sec. 228.205. QUEEN ISABELLA CAUSEWAY. [(d) ] The commission may not convert the Queen Isabella Causeway in Cameron
County to a toll project [facility ].

Sec. 228.206. TOLL REVENUE. [(e) Subchapter G, Chapter
361, applies to a highway converted to a toll facility under this
section. [(f) ] Toll revenue collected under this section:
(1) shall be deposited in the state highway fund;
(2) may be used by the department to finance the
improvement, extension, expansion, or operation of the converted
segment of highway and may not be collected except for those
purposes; and (3) is exempt from the application of Section 403.095,
Government Code.

Sec. 228.207. COUNTY AND VOTER APPROVAL. [(g) ] The
commission may only convert a state highway or a segment of a[the ]
state highway [ system ] under this subchapter [section ] if the
conversion is approved by : (1) the commissioners court of each county within
which the highway or segment is located ; and (2) the qualified voters who vote in an election under Section 228.208 and who reside in the limits of: (A) a county if any part of the highway or segment to be converted is located in an unincorporated area of the county; or (B) a municipality in which the highway or segment to be converted is wholly located .

Sec. 228.208. ELECTION TO APPROVE CONVERSION. (a) If
notified by the department of the proposed conversion of a highway
or segment under this subchapter, and after approval of the
conversion by the appropriate commissioners courts as required by
Section 228.207(1), the commissioners court of each county
described by Section 228.207(2)(A) or the governing body of a
municipality described by Section 228.207(2)(B), as applicable,
shall call an election for the approval or disapproval of the
conversion. (b) If a county or municipality orders an election, the
county or municipality shall publish notice of the election in a
newspaper of general circulation published in the county or
municipality at least once each week for three consecutive weeks,
with the first publication occurring at least 21 days before the
date of the election. (c) An order or resolution ordering an election and the
election notice required by Subsection (b) must show, in addition
to the requirements of the Election Code, the location of each
polling place and the hours that the polls will be open. (d) The proposition submitted in the election must distinctly state the highway or segment proposed to be converted
and the limits of that highway or segment. (e) At an election ordered under this section, the ballots shall be printed to permit voting for or against the proposition:
“The conversion of (highway) from (beginning location) to (ending
location) to a toll project.” (f) A proposed conversion is approved only if it is approved
by a majority of the votes cast. (g) A notice of the election and a certified copy of the
order canvassing the election results shall be sent to the
commission.

MPO rams 37 toll projects down San Antonians’ throats

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

UPDATE: It's been brought to our attention that there are actually 57 toll projects in the plan. The MPO adopted the plan December 3, 2009.

Eye-popping 37 toll projects appear in MPO’s new plan, 18 to come under foreign control
Taxpayers’ revolt ahead of Monday vote

(San Antonio, TX, December 3, 2009) While San Antonians were enjoying turkey and counting their blessings this Thanksgiving, their politicians were scurrying to load-up the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) long-range plan with no less than 37 toll projects, 18 of them slated to come under foreign control using controversial private toll contracts called Comprehensive Development Agreements (or CDAs).

The grassroots defeated CDAs during a special called session of the Texas legislature in July, yet the MPO plugged these now illegal contracts into its plan anyway, apparently following TxDOT’s playbook of using it as a means to get CDAs re-authorized over the LOUD OPPOSITION of Texans in the next legislative session in 2011. TURF has alerted the grassroots to urge the MPO to:

1) REMOVE toll roads and CDAs from its plans.

2) Use traditional gas tax funding NOT privatizing and tolling Texas roads as its source of funding for these projects.

3) NOT VOTE for ANY plan with toll projects and CDAs in it.

“We’ve been warning San Antonians for years that Rick Perry has made his toll tax policy so expansive, they won’t be able to escape it. The MPO’s list of 37 toll projects shows how out of touch our politicians are with the economic realities of their constituents. It’s clear this about more than getting projects built, it’s an all-out assault on our freedom to travel by making it unaffordable to drive. I haven’t met a single Texan outside the Capitol that thinks it’s a good idea to cede control of our Texas roads to foreign companies,” observes Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF.

As an example of just what a taxpayer disaster it is to hand control of our public roads to private, foreign toll operators using CDAs, drivers on a road operated by Spain-based Cintra (who has won three Texas contracts already) in Canada receive their first bill totaling thousands of dollars in fines years after they supposedly took the tollway. The government has no power to step-in and protect motorists from runaway taxation nor disputed toll fines.

A recent article in the Toronto Star chronicles the nightmare:

"’We, as a government, have no control over that, as a result of the (Mike) Harris government's deal,’ to lease the toll road to a private consortium for 99 years and include a provision in the contract forcing the transportation ministry to deny new plates to anyone who doesn't pay the 407 whatever it demands, said Bradley.

“The 407 ‘negotiated a deal that was very favourable to them and they covered all the aspects of the deal that they would want,’ said Bradley.

“Many readers said they think the 407 deliberately holds back invoices on unpaid balances to allow interest charges to grow, but Bradley noted that it "is responsible for establishing its own business practices, and under its deal ... it has the right to set and collect tolls and administration fees and interest."

Here's some of the anti-taxpayer provisions involved in CDA sweetheart deals:
-In Texas, they can last up to 52 years
- Contracts kept secret from the public until AFTER they're signed (no transparency, no way to ensure public protections)
-Charge oppressively high toll rates, like 75 cents PER MILE (like the deals in DFW) which on average will mean $3,000 a year in new taxes on driving
-Grant foreign companies the right to levy taxes, the power to take away drivers licenses or car/license plate registration
-Removes rights of due process for toll violations and fines
-Non-compete agreements that guarantee congestion on the free routes
-Guaranteed annual profits (so they can raise the toll rates to whatever price needed so they always get their guaranteed level of profit)
-Massive taxpayer subsidies (so it's a double and even triple tax scenario) yet all the profits leave Texas
-Toll companies write off the depreciation of the "asset" on their taxes (then spin it off to another subsidiary company and start the depreciation all over again)
- Exemption from alternative minimum taxes and often special use of tax-exempt public bonds
- Little to no actual risk transfer
-Slower speed limits on free routes and higher speed limits on the tollways to drive more traffic to the toll roads (financial incentive given to TxDOT for driving more traffic to the tollways)

A sample list of toll projects on the docket:

-Hwy 90 (from 410 to 211)
- I-10 (from 410 to county line)
- Loop 1604 (just about the entire loop, not just the north half)
- 281 (from 1604 to Comal County line)
- I-37 (from 410 south to Atascosa County line)
- Bandera Rd (from 410 to 1604 still appears despite amendment to remove it)
- interchange at I-10 & 1604
- interchange at 281 & 1604 (northbound ramps)
- interchange at 1604 & 151
- interchange at 1604 & 90
- interchange at 1604 & 1-35
- interchange at I-35 & 410
- Kelly Pkwy/Spur 371 (US 90 to SH 16)
- ALL of I-35 (from Atascosa to Comal County line)

End the grip of BIG MONEY on Transportation Policy


IMMEDIATE RELEASE

End the grip of BIG MONEY on Transportation Policy
TURF STATEMENT ON GREASING THE WHEEL REPORT

(Austin, TX - November 12, 2009) My name is Terri Hall and I’m the Founder/Director of Texas TURF, an all-volunteer, grassroots group defending the citizens’ concerns with toll road policy, and working toward affordable and transparent non-toll transportation solutions.

We applaud the Greasing the Wheel report released today by TX PIRG because it affirms what we already knew...that the road lobby is driving transportation decisions and policy not the taxpayers. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to oust his own transportation board appointee for objecting to the Governor’s proposal to sell a CA freeway to private investors. His appointee called the deal “too risky for taxpayers.” In Idaho, the Governor had the Director of their DOT fired in a “political powerplay to help Governor Butch Otter and his big campaign donors.” Her crime? Saving the taxpayers money by steering money away from high-paid outside consultants back to the highway department who can do the work far cheaper.

Even worse, federal transportation agencies are using OUR taxpayer money to both lobby to and waive provisions in the law to handover our public highways to the private sector.  Most of these changes were authorized by the Bush Administration, but the Obama Administration has allowed this controversial policy to stay in place, which is public private partnerships (PPPs, also called CDAs in Texas). PPPs are the most expensive way to fund roads.

A recent article in the Bond Buyer exposed that: “...there are a number of tolling and P3-related programs administered by the Federal Highway Administration. One is the Special Experimental Project Number 15, or SEP-15, which gives the transportation secretary the ability to waive certain rules of the current transportation law on a case-by-case basis. The program allows the FHWA ‘to experiment in four major areas of project delivery’ including project finance, and one of its goals is to promote P3s, according to the FHWA.”

Why would the feds want to promote the sale of our public roads to private corporations? To enrich the highway lobby who’s been greasing the wheel.

Perry’s behavior in Texas has been equally deplorable: stacking his commission with goons who rabidly promote the sale of TX infrastructure to his cronies, payments of up to $3.6 million to losing bidders on CDAs, withholding highway funding from local communities until they capitulate to tolling existing freeways, illegally hiring registered lobbyists with taxpayer money to lobby to relax and even remove prohibitions on tolling, the revolving door between his office and Cintra lobbyist Dan Shelley, the list goes on and on.

When our elected representatives are bought and paid for by road building interests, how can the citizens stand a chance? It's no wonder why our politicians are so tone-deaf to the public outcry against enormously expensive, unwanted toll roads and privatization schemes that will break the backs of the middle class. It's time to clean-up Texas politics, By exposing the link between the BIG MONEY and the types of road projects that get priority, the taxpayers can then hold their politicians accountable in the ONE way they can...at the ballot box.

We also think it’s time to consider TX PIRG’s recommendation of publicly-funded elections. It may be the only way to shatter the vice grip special interests’ wield over our politicians and public policy.

Transparency is the first step toward accountability. May this report and our efforts to shine the light on the today be the first step toward citizen-driven transportation policy in the great State of Texas!

Houghton flip flops on promise not to interfere with local toll decisions

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Transportation Commissioner wants to strip local toll agency of project after promising “TxDOT should be out of the toll business”
Grassroots cry foul over Houghton flip-flop

(November 6, 2009) - In today’s Star-Telegram article, Texas Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton reversed his position on the department’s involvement in toll roads. The article states Houghton “wants the North Texas Tollway Authority to withdraw as the lead partner in the Southwest Parkway project and let the state seek a private developer to build the toll road from Fort Worth to Cleburne.”

When Houghton was up for confirmation in the Texas Senate, he stunned the Chair of the Nominations Committee, Senator Mike Jackson, when the Commissioner said in the hearing on May 13, 2009, "I think TxDOT should be out of the toll business. That's not our business. It's the NTTA's business, it's the CTRMA's business, it's the El Paso RMA's business."


Jackson said he was surprised by Houghton’s comment and asked him "and is that a dramatic change in your position over the last few years?"

Houghton acknowledged that it was.

Jackson then asked him what changed his mind and Houghton replied, "We have RMAs that are created. We have people like NTTA and HCTRA that have a history behind them and know how to do it. That has changed my mind, that local RMAs should be the, and local toll road authorities...should be those agencies that build those projects...and again if we (the department) have the resources....enable these authorities to build those projects to give 'em that credit lift, or to participate....There's a menu to be able to participate, but not to run these toll, no, these toll projects."

Apparently, Houghton lied to the Nominations Committee to win confirmation and now that lawmakers have left Austin, it's back to business as usual at TxDOT. The Perry-appointed Transportation Commission is again interfering with local decision-making and attempting to sell our Texas highways to private developers in its classic "it's our way or no highway" form.

This development comes after more than 80% of Texas voters in Tuesday's election voted to keep Texans' land from being taken through eminent domain and given to private developers for profit. However, Proposition 11 doesn't protect Texans’ private property from being taken in the name of public use for a state highway then sold to foreign entities for private gain.

“Houghton and TxDOT in their arrogance, fail to grasp (or care) that they are under Sunset review once again, and taxpayers and legislators alike are none too happy with them on ANY front. Houghton’s attempt to strip the NTTA of the Southwest Parkway project so the department can sell it off to the highest bidder on Wall Street is another example of why TxDOT has been in perpetual hot water.

“Houghton recently identified himself as the most arrogant commissioner of the most arrogant state agency in the state of Texas. Perhaps a new addition to his list is in order. Let’s add: the most untruthful commissioner,” suggests Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texas TURF.

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Link to article here.

Official says tollway authority should bow out of Southwest Parkway
Thursday, Nov. 05, 2009
By GORDON DICKSON
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

A Texas Transportation Commission member wants the North Texas Tollway Authority to withdraw as the lead partner in the Southwest Parkway project and let the state seek a private developer to build the toll road from Fort Worth to Cleburne.

Commissioner Ted Houghton of El Paso discussed his recommendation about Southwest Parkway in an interview a day after the tollway authority said that the toll road is expected to cost $2 billion but that only $1 billion is available. The tollway authority said it would needs state aid to start construction next year.

Houghton wrote in an e-mail to Commissioner Bill Meadows of Fort Worth this week that his "recommendation on the project on the western end of the Metroplex is that NTTA turn that project back to us and we utilize the private pass-through tool that would bring in private equity."

A third party would pay for Southwest Parkway upfront and be repaid over time with tolls from the road.

Pass-through financing has built smaller city- or county-funded projects in other cities and would not be covered by the Legislature’s ban on comprehensive development agreements between the Texas Department of Transportation and private developers, Houghton said.

Concession fee

Houghton, one of five state transportation commissioners, also said that the Plano-based tollway authority had requested a $200 million discount on another Dallas-Fort Worth toll project: Texas 161, which is under construction in Irving and Grand Prairie and is a gateway to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Last year, after months of intense negotiations, the state Transportation Department and the tollway authority agreed that the market value of the Texas 161 toll road from Texas 183 to Interstate 20 was $458 million. That would be the "concession fee" the authority would have to pay the state to take over the project.

The authority hasn’t decided whether to take over Texas 161.

But Houghton and other state officials have balked at the authority’s requests for financial aid, including a request for the state to use its gas-tax-supported Fund 6 as a guarantee against certain authority debts, and a loan of $300 million to $500 million from the state infrastructure bank.

State law gives the authority primacy, or first dibs, on toll projects in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Transportation Department can’t pursue private development of a toll project unless the authority declines it.

The first portion of Southwest Parkway, an eight-mile stretch from Interstate 30 in west Fort Worth to Dirks Road in an undeveloped part of the city’s southwest side, was expected to be under construction in 2010.

'I’m all ears’

Tollway Authority Vice Chairman Victor Vandergriff of Arlington said Thursday that he was unaware that a pass-through tolling arrangement with a private developer could even be done.

"I’m all ears," he said. "I would be pleased to understand that, and be supportive of that, if it will get the project done."

But Vandergriff reiterated that the authority wants to build Southwest Parkway.

Negotiations between the authority and Transportation Department are reaching a crucial phase, and Vandergriff said he doesn’t want to "point a finger" of blame for the Southwest Parkway funding gap.

But he did say that part of the problem is that the Transportation Department withdrew about $211 million in gas-tax-supported funds from the project to make ends meet on other Tarrant County projects, including the proposed expansion of Northeast Loop 820 and Airport Freeway.

That funding loss is part of the reason the authority is seeking a state loan, Vandergriff said.

Earlier this year, Johnson County officials, who refer to the project as Chisholm Trail, warned that moving gas tax funding out of the project could delay it.

"We’ve got a very tough finance market and very financially challenged agency" in the Transportation Department, Vandergriff said. "It really doesn’t do any good for one side or the other to point fingers unduly. I think it’s premature to say the parties can’t work together to get it done."

Eminent domain reform has a long way to go

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Texans want eminent domain reform
Prop 11 falls short of giving it to them

(November 3, 2009) - Texans overwhelmingly voted for Proposition 11 in hopes that it sends a strong message that Texans want eminent domain reform. However, Prop 11 didn't get the job done. The Texas Legislature needs to continue the push for further reforms and to prevent abuses. TURF didn't support Prop11 because it still allows a governmental entity to take Texans' private property for "urban blight" and "certain economic development or enhancement of tax revenue purposes," nor did it include:

- Strong definition of public use limiting eminent domain for ANY economic development and tax enhancement purposes

- Good faith negotiations (prevent entities from low-balling landowners and forcing them to hire expensive lawyers to get fair market value)

- Compensation for diminished access to a landowner's property

- Limit the granting of eminent domain to any further entities without a vote of the people

- Relocation assistance for displaced landowners

- Ability to buy land back at original cost after 10 years if the State doesn't use it

Bottom line, the State can still condemn Texans' land against their will and hand it over to private developers for toll roads using public private partnerships called Comprehensive Development Agreements. The Trans Texas Corridor, originally slated to gobble-up massive swaths of private property (4 football fields wide, biggest land grab in Texas history) through rural Texas, along with dozens of toll projects in urban areas are precisely why Texans have yet to get a strong eminent domain reform bill. When foreign corporations get controlling interest in public highways in such sweetheart deals with guaranteed 12-19% annual profits, non-compete agreements that guarantee congestion on the free routes, etc., they become defacto taxing entities and charge Texans hefty tolls to access their own public roads.

"It's private profits in the name of  public use," noted Terri Hall. Founder/Director of Texas TURF.

Taxpayers ask Board to dump tolls


PRESS ADVISORY

Taxpayers to ask planning board
to dump tolls on 281, 1604

(San Antonio, TX) - The fight to keep tolls off existing freeways will reach new heights on Monday, October 26, as the local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will take action on whether or not to remove 281(north of 1604) and the most congested part of 1604 (on the west side from 151 to Bandera Rd) from the toll plans. The MPO has called two special meetings this month in preparation for the vote, and toll opponents are delighted to have the battle moved from downtown (at the Via Metro Center where MPO board meetings take place) to the northside where the toll roads are proposed to hit first. Opponents also scored a victory by changing the usual meeting time from 1:00 PM in the middle of the workday to 6 PM when the public can actually participate.

The sparks are already flying as both sides seek to line-up the votes on the 19 member board: 10 elected, 9 appointed. The partially taxpayer-funded San Antonio Mobility Coalition has consistently lobbied for tolling of all types, and has sent out multiple emails blasts to it's 70 private companies, the majority of whom profit directly from road building (and who want a road building slush fund), to lobby the MPO Board in favor of higher taxes (tolls). SAMCo itself is also lobbying the Board, in part, on the taxpayers' dime with "sky is falling" type hysteria. It's already causing a backlash among taxpayers. Read more here.

WHO/WHAT: MPO Meeting to vote down 281/1604 toll roads
WHEN: Monday, October 26 @ 6:00 PM
WHERE: Alzafar Shrine Temple, 901 1604 W, San Antonio, TX 78232

TURF is spreading the word through two street banners (one at 281 & Evans Rd and the other at 1604 & Braun Rd.), by passing out thousands of fliers (see it here) in the proposed toll corridors, a special web site with meeting information and which elected officials to call, as well as making robo phone calls to get folks to the October 26 meeting. Their message?

Toll roads mean...

• $12/day or $3,000/year in new toll-taxes!
(Based on published estimates)

• Guarantees congestion by prohibiting expansion of free routes! (prevents surrounding arteries like Stone Oak, Blanco, Bulverde, Bandera, Braun, and Shaenfield from being widened)

• TRIPLE TAXATION! (1-Paid for existing road, 2-will use tax $ to build it, 3-charge toll-tax to drive on it)

• Hands our public roads to foreign corporations for 50 years! (Two Spanish companies already have 5 contracts in TX)

• Businesses will pass toll-tax on to YOU!
(Prices for goods & services will skyrocket)

More information at www.FixGridlock.com.

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