Transportation Reform: Fiscal Responsibility First
January 26, 2015
By Ross Kecseg
Predictably, the Austin establishment is calling for higher taxes, rainy-day raids and further expansion of “regionally managed” toll lanes as a means to finance roadway expansion. But before Texans allow more money to be indiscriminately thrown at transportation, the legislature should first reform the use of existing tax revenue.
The most obvious reform is to reduce motor fuel sales tax diversions, which currently sends 52% of tax revenue away from road projects and debt service. Even the federally mandated, state subsidized, liberal leaning planning bodies like North Texas’ Regional Transportation Council (RTC) oppose these diversions.
Doing so would likely require several other structural reforms to state budgeting; such as eliminating non-essential programs and agencies, dedicating future revenue streams to transportation, reforming the budgeting process to prioritize core conservative principles, and enacting stricter spending growth limits—all of which will enrage the lobbying class.
We've been trying to get this data made public ever since Rick Perry made it secret in 2007. We MUST have openess and transparanecy with this data - the pulci has a right to know if a toll road will be financially solvent BEFORE decisions are made, bond debt issued, or other public money committed.
Trinity Parkway traffic and toll estimates can be withheld, AG says
Published: 26 January 2015
The North Texas Tollway Authority has spent 15 years and more than $1.7 million estimating the traffic impact and revenue potential of the proposed Trinity Parkway.
The agency collected the habits of Dallas drivers, the effect of various access points and how the toll road would affect nearby land usage.
That information could bolster or undercut arguments surrounding the project. It could also give a deeper understanding of the project’s potential risks and payoffs.
But the NTTA doesn’t have to share any of the information with the public.
More waste at TxDOT. Taxpayers pay TxDOT engineers for continuing education at PRIVATE, very epxensive universities. Cut the waste and get back to building highways!
TxDOT Spends Millions in Tuition Reimbursements
By Terri Langford, Bobby Blanchard and Becca Aaronson
Jan. 22, 2015
When it comes to reimbursing state employees for education costs, the Texas Department of Transportation is far more generous than other state agencies.
After reporting this month that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission paid a top aide's $97,020 MBA tuition, The Texas Tribune took a closer look at how much state agencies reimburse employees for education costs. Of the $23.8 million state agencies spent from 2002 to part of January 2015 on tuition, conferences and other educational programs for employees, close to half went to TxDOT staffers, according to data from the Texas comptroller’s office.
TxDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer could not explain why the agency spends much more on staffer education than other agencies. She said doing so helps the agency attract and retain the most talented staff.
Man Keeps Receiving Toll Road Bill
The bill is for a vehicle from another state that he does not own
Jan 14, 2015
MISSION - A Mission man said he has been battling with the Texas Department of Transportation for years. The problem is a TxTag toll bill he received by mistake.
The man called 5 On Your Side for help.
Elwood and Avis Hedin have been coming down to the Rio Grande Valley from Minnesota for years.
“It's very frustrating. When you are talking to a person, it's like talking to a machine,” said Elwood Hedin.
It was back in 2012 when Hedin first got a bill from the Texas Department of Transportation's TxTag Office, which handles toll roads.
He paid his small bill, but then started getting billed for another vehicle which was not his.
Why should a single Texas taxpayer pay for truckers to have toll discounts when we all have to pay full price to take the failing SH 130 tollway? This is not good policy and only prolongs the inevitable - bankruptcy for an ill-conceived toll road. This taxpayer subsidy should never happen.
Multiple segments of Texas 130 eyed for truck toll discounts
By Keith Goble
Land Line state legislative editor
January 9, 2015
Truckers traveling through central Texas could soon get another enticement to avoid driving on Interstate 35. In an effort to reduce congestion on I-35 through the Austin area, multiple Texas state lawmakers are behind an effort to reduce truck tolls along a 49-mile stretch of state Highway 130.
The 90-mile highway connects the state capital with San Antonio to the south. It is split into six segments. Segments 1 through 4 link Georgetown to south Austin and are run by the state Department of Transportation. Segments 5 and 6 are closest to San Antonio and are run by a private group.
Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. Celia Israel D-Austin, have filed bills for consideration during the session that begins Tuesday, Jan. 13, that would reduce the expense for truckers to travel along segments 1 through 4.
Senators call for federal gas tax hike
By Mary Troyan
January 11, 2015
WASHINGTON — Low gas prices have rekindled talk on Capitol Hill about raising the federal gas tax to eliminate huge annual deficits in the federal Highway Trust Fund that pays for road and bridge work around the country.
While some top Republicans remain adamant a tax hike is not the answer, there are signs that the idea, including one from Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, is at least getting a fresh look.
Corker and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have proposed raising the federal gas tax by 12 cents over two years and indexing it to inflation. To make the concept more palatable to fiscal conservatives, the measure would lower other taxes.
The 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993. As vehicles have become more efficient, the revenue generated by the tax has dropped. Current stopgap funding for the Highway Trust Fund expires in May, and transportation officials in Tennessee and other states are holding back projects until uncertainty about the federal money is addressed.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said this week a gas tax increase could not be ruled out. Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, agreed.
They did not endorse Corker's bill, but their comments represent more of an opening than when gas prices topped $4 a gallon.
"What we floated is obvious. There is not enough money coming in," Corker said last week.
Transportation: Pay As You Go
Transportation bills focus on funding and taxes
By Michael King
Fri., Jan. 9, 2015
If there's an incipient theme in the transportation-related bills filed thus far, it's roughly "Show Me the Money." There are several bills, including joint resolutions aimed at eventual constitutional amendments, that would re-allocate various taxes and/or fees related to transportation, mostly attempting to confine all such funding to direct highway construction. That's the thrust of HJR 28 and 29 (Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso) as well as HJR 36 (Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio), although each has different emphases; curiously, both are drafted as temporary, two-year amendments to the infinitely flexible Texas Constitution.
A similar trend includes various attempts to make certain all transportation money is dedicated to highways – and highways only. One strategy is to require a public referendum for any attempt to create and manage a "fixed rail system" (HB 527, Larson); such high democratic standards seldom seem to apply to major highway construction. Other bills would redirect all gas tax revenue to road construction, and away from the permanent school fund or anything else not highway related (SB 61, Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas; HB 129, Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth). With new funding headed to transportation following the passage of November's Prop. 1 (Rainy Day Funds for transportation), there will certainly be persistent efforts to define "transportation" to mean exclusively "poured concrete." And Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would attempt (SB 119) to make transit system management more difficult by requiring that agency boards be elected, not appointed.
Transportation Committees major factor in needed reforms
By Terri Hall
January 25, 2015
When Texas voters elected a new Governor and Lt. Governor, they ushered in a new era of leadership that promised key reforms in the arena of transportation - promising to address the structural funding shortfalls without tolls as well as problems with processes and efficiencies. Much of the new policy will be shaped by who Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus tap as Transportation Committee members. Patrick just announced his picks Friday and Straus is expected to announce his soon.
So let’s take a look at Patrick’s picks for the Senate Transportation Committee. Senator Robert Nichols (R - Jacksonville) will remain the Chair, but most notable are the new faces on the committee, including four new senators Bob Hall (R - Kaufman County), Don Huffines (R -Dallas), Lois Kolkhorst (R -Brenham), and Van Taylor (R - Plano). Taylor and Kolkhorst formerly served in the Texas House. All of the new senators are anti-toll. Huffines was appointed Vice Chair, which is a big nod. Compare that to just one anti-toll committee member last session and none in prior sessions, and this is a Texas-sized step forward for taxpayers.
Fails to turn toll lanes back to free lanes on 281 as promised
By Terri Hall
Jan., 26, 2015
Today, the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO) decided how Prop 1 funds would be spent on area roads. Notably absent, again, was Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff whose precinct encompasses the controversial toll project on US 281. His father, the County Judge Nelson Wolff, sent a letter to the Transportation Commission asking for Prop 1 funds to be used to turn toll lanes into free lanes on US 281 if Prop 1 passed, and yet there's a deafening silence from both Wolffs now that Wolff was re-elected county judge.
Rather than turn toll lanes back to free lanes on US 281 as promised and as its own policy requires, the board unanimiously chose to spend $124 million in new money that voters approved, which can only be spent on non-toll projects, to non-priority minor fixes to frontage roads on I-10 near Boerne and on Hwy 90. Neither project is on the state's 100 Most Congested Roads List. US 281 has been consistently on the list for years and even ranked the #1 most stressful road in the state per the Commuter Stress Index. None of the new funds will be used on major congestion relief projects that add capacity to major corridors - all of which are slated to be tolled.
Governor proposes a toll road plan 'as big as Texas'
Aman Batheja | Texas Tribune | Posted: January 7, 2015
Rick Perry was just a year into his tenure as governor when he proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive 4,000-mile network of privately operated toll roads, railroad tracks and utility lines that would take 50 years to build.
“This plan is as big as Texas and as ambitious as our people,” Perry said at the first of many events touting the project.
The corridor he envisioned would never become a reality, but he still managed to leave his mark on the state’s approach to funding roads. Under his leadership, Texas has been the country’s most aggressive supporter of tolling and private-sector investment in transportation.
Privatizing highways using P3s (called AFPs in Canada) cost Canadians $8 billion more than if the government had done the toll projects. Bottom line, P3s cost far more than the quicker delivery is worth.
Government-managed projects could save Ontario money: Auditor-General
By Adrian Morrow
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Dec. 09 2014
Public-private partnerships have cost Ontario taxpayers nearly $8-billion more on infrastructure over the past nine years than if the government had successfully built the projects itself.
This is what is happening all over Texas, too: “It’s crazy. Gas is going down but what we’re saving on gas we’re spending on tolls.” Tolls have gone up 54% overall in Miami and that’s the pattern for toll roads - perpetual, ever increasing, unaccountable taxation. This is the legacy of Rick Perry that's well articulated by this frustrated motorist quoted below: “They’re taxing the crap out of people.”
Tolls on 836, 112 have driver tempers flaring
By Glenn Garvin
It may take a full year to evaluate how a new toll system on State Roads 836 and 112 has affected traffic, expressway authorities say, but the effect on motorists’ tempers is pretty clear: They’re flaring.
“An abuse of power!” fumes Coral Gables architect Maria Luisa Castellanos. “Taxation without representation.” says Jim Angleton, who owns a cluster of financial services scattered across Miami-Dade: “They’re taxing the crap out of people.”
Transportation Diversions Are the Enemy of Transparency
by Ross Kecseg
December 31, 2014
Lazy politicians maintain that Texans should pay higher taxes, fees and tolls if we hope to meet roadway demand spurred by population growth. However, they fail to mention the gas tax revenue we already pay is diverted to unrelated programs with billions more spent by transportation agencies on non-road projects.
A simple example is our state’s gas tax. The legislature levies it specifically for the State Highway fund…and then diverts 52% of it elsewhere. Transportation is such a “high priority” that Republicans gleefully divert more than half of road money away from what it was created to finance—roads.
John Thune Puts Gas Tax Hike on the Table for GOP Senate
by Dan Riehl
4 Jan 2015
The incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) put all options on the table when it comes to replenishing the shrinking Highway Trust Fund, which is widely seen as opening the door to a tax increase.
Per an AP report, “Gas and diesel taxes haven’t risen since 1993, resulting in perennial shortfalls in the fund that pays for most road projects”.
Several commissions have called for raising the taxes, but Congress has been reluctant. Instead lawmakers have dipped repeatedly into the general treasury to keep the trust fund solvent.
The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and the diesel tax is 24.4 cents per gallon.
Thune made the comments while on “Fox News Sunday.”
It’s reports like this one that we’ll use to hold state leaders accountable for how they spend our hard-earned tax money this next budget cycle. They promise more money for roads, but TxDOT’s perpetual excuse to levy toll taxes on every highway will continue to be ‘it’s still not enough’ unless we demand NONE of this new money or existing tax revenues can be used to build toll roads. If they’re going to build a toll road, it should pay for itself with just the toll users alone - no tax money!
Tax relief figures high on legislative budget priorities
By Peggy Fikac
December 6, 2014
AUSTIN — Texans can expect tax relief, a focus on border security and more efforts to fight traffic congestion when a cash-flush Legislature convenes in January.
The budget priorities line up with campaign promises from Republican state leaders and lawmakers, who handily won their spots with a message of keeping state government lean while carefully weighing additional spending for its benefits.
Prop 1 special section
Link to article here.
Doubts about Prop 1 loom in light of oil bust
By Terri Hall
January 4, 2015
When Texas lawmakers punted on road funding with passage of Proposition One last year, they never anticipated the Texas oil boom would abruptly crater. It took three special sessions to round up the two-thirds majority needed to place a Constitutional amendment on the ballot for Texas voters to decide if they wanted to raid half of the state’s oil and gas severance tax (a tax on new oil wells) and divert those revenues to the State Highway Fund. With the promise that the new funds could not be used to build or support toll roads, Texas voters gave the green light. But the euphoria lawmakers felt after getting away with gaining new highway funds without ending diversions of the gasoline tax has quickly turned to doubt as the plummeting price of gasoline has severely tempered oil production in the Lone Star State.
It’s only a matter of time before big government colludes to bring us a national toll tag system that tracks citizens everywhere we go and can conveniently charge us for every mile we drive. The fact that this reporter nor the people interviewed in the story see this as a threat to privacy and our pocketbooks is downright scary. There’s a whole lot more to this than convenience….
Improved system makes cross-county and cross-country travel easier
BY GLENN MILLER
December 24, 2014
The word interoperability is tough to spell and pronounce and isn’t one used in everyday communication.
Unless, that is, one works in a bridge or highway tollbooth.
Yet, interoperability might affect anybody who drives a car or truck over bridges or toll roads anywhere in Florida and a couple of nearby states. Eventually, perhaps in every state.
Navasota residents waiting to see proposed toll road route
By ANDREA SALAZAR
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Plans for a Texas 249 toll road connecting Houston to Waco by way of Grimes County have left some landowners in limbo as transportation officials decide where to build the roadway.
"We're living on the edge of the unknown," said David Tullos, a coordinator for the Grimes Citizen Advisory Group, a grassroots coalition opposing the construction of the toll road, which would start out as a two-way road with a passing lane and eventually grow to a four-lane divided highway.
"It has created a degree of uncertainty," Tullos added. "If somebody wanted to sell property, they couldn't because the person buying would be buying into the unknown with the fact that a toll road could go through the property."
When good toll roads go bad
By Keith Benman
December 27, 2014
Northern Indiana is not the first region in the nation to be subject to fallout from a toll road bankruptcy, with a number of other privatized roads and bridges going belly up across the nation in the past few years.
The good news is those roads have continued to carry traffic with little disruption. The bad news is there is usually little communities can do to influence the bankruptcy process, except in cases where roads revert to government ownership.
OUTRAGE: As punishment for voters rejecting a sales tax hike to pay for state highways, Missouri politicians seek to impose $20-$30 in tolls per trip to use I-70.
Report: Double-digit tolls could fund I-70 repairs
By SUMMER BALLENTINE
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Motorists on Interstate 70 would need to pay $20 to $30 in tolls to travel one way across Missouri to pay for the minimum in needed repairs on the roadway, according to a state Department of Transportation report released Wednesday.
Possible solutions suggested in the report, commissioned in early December by Gov. Jay Nixon, include using tolls to repay public bonds or to recoup expenses in a public-private partnership.
Falling oil prices could deepen Texas' road funding woes
By BRANDON FORMBY
Dallas Morning News
December 28, 2014
Drivers cheer falling gas prices, but the plummeting value of oil could undermine voters’ attempts to pay for more road construction and maintenance.
Texans overwhelmingly agreed in November to partially fill the state transportation agency’s $5 billion annual shortfall with excess oil and gas production taxes. The approval of Proposition 1 was expected to give the Texas Department of Transportation about $1.7 billion a year.
Maybe the political class and special interests are excited about rail since road funding has been lackluster for the last few years and they’ll latch onto any black hole needing taxpayer subsides and guarantees anytime they can get it. However, North Texas residents are angry at the prospect of more of their road funding being diverted to rail projects while being asked to pay double digit daily toll bills all over the Metroplex.
2014 in transportation: Toll projects garnered furor while rail projects drew excitement
By BRANDON FORMBY
Dallas Morning News
December 28, 2014
North Texas this year moved closer to becoming home to the nation’s largest network of managed toll lanes, as the second phase of LBJ Freeway’s massive renovation opened.
The region’s proliferation of toll lanes and roads expanded into Tarrant County with the opening of three projects — the DFW Connector, the North Tarrant Express and the Chisholm Trail Parkway. And in Dallas, the long-planned Trinity Parkway toll road once again emerged as one of the city’s most contentious topics.
These two dueling news reports from North Carolina TV stories show the power of the press: one series reads like a puff piece written by Cintra, the other highly critical of Cintra - leasing viewers to draw totally different conclusions. This is why TURF exists - to help you sort the facts from fiction and to protect the interests of we the people - the taxpayers!
NOTE: Cintra canceled its interview with the reporter once they knew TURF was going to be interviewed.
9 Investigates: The real cost of toll lanes
To get answers, Channel 9 traveled to Dallas, Texas where Cintra is building a similar toll road.
By Scott Wickersham
November 5, 2014
Channel 9 - North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina DOT is close to finalizing a financial contract with a Spanish company to build toll roads on Interstate 77 from Mooresville to uptown Charlotte. But not much is known about exactly how much it will cost or how construction will affect traffic, and the public has only seen animations of how it will look when it's done.
To get answers, Channel 9 anchor Scott Wickersham traveled to Dallas, Texas where Cintra is building a similar toll road. Channel 9’s investigation found that Texans are paying a hefty price to drive congestion-free -- and one group there says people in Charlotte should be very concerned. The Dallas metro area is home to 6.5 million people -- and heavy traffic.
Roads to Ruin
Opinion: "We’ve let private companies get away with the claim that efficiency will lead to cheaper and better highways when what it often leads to is massive taxpayer debt."
By Randy Salzman
November 11, 2014
The company that runs the $3.8 billion Indiana Toll Road went under in September, adding to the list of nearly a dozen transportation-based public-private partnerships in bankruptcy court across the country.
Few of the rest, including Virginia's 22 public-private partnerships, known as P3s, are meeting their toll and income projections. Maryland's InterCounty Connector has quadrupled in cost to $4 billion while carrying less than half of its projected vehicles.
Help us fight to preserve our rights and freedoms! or donate by mail. We cannot do it without you!
Upcoming TURF Events
Toll-Free Texas Day at the Capitol -- Sign up now!
See what is happening and how you can get involved! Attend the monthly TURF meeting...
See what is happening and how you can get involved! Attend the monthly TURF meeting...
- Lawmakers introduce package of Toll-free Texas bills
- Abbott state of the state speech promises adequate road funds without tolls
- URGENT! CALLS NEEDED TO STOP TOLLS in SA
- Taxpayers to pay carpoolers tolls
- SCANDAL: TxDOT-Xerox $100 million toll contract blows up in Texas Senate
- Patrick pushes bill to dedicate vehicle sales tax to highway fund
- Tolls impede the American spirit of the open road
- Repeal of private toll companies' eminent domain authority imminent
Like Us on Facebook!
Latest Press Releases
- Commissioners approve tolls for northside of San Antonio
- Can TxDOT use gas taxes to support toll roads? Kolkhorst asks AG for opinion on Prop 15
- Passage of Prop 1 opens door to fix 281 without tolls
- Anti-toll candidates snatch key positions in Texas
- Citizens ask cities & counties to oppose Blacklands private toll road
- Election victory represents power shift that will benefit anti-tollers
- Obama seeks to lift ban on tolling existing freeways
- Krier's conflicts of interest pose problem for council seat