FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(AUSTIN,TX - JULY 11, 2012) TURF warned the Joint Committee of Government Efficiency and Reform and State Affairs that controversial public private partnerships (P3s) that sell-off Texans' public infrastructure to private corporations represents eminent domain abuse and grants state-sanctioned monopolies. While the Committee focused primarily on privatizing government services, Reason Foundation promoted P3s for everything, including public infrastructure.
TURF opposed the legislation that gave the state this authority, SB 1048, and cautioned against the use of P3s that have long-term detrimental effects to property rights and state sovereignty in return for short-term gain -- some quick cash for the state.
"When it comes to infrastructure projects like roads and public buildings, it involves eminent domain that forcibly condemns private property in the name of a 'public use.' With P3s, that land, including any amount of adjacent property a developer says it needs to re-coup its investment, is handed to a private developer for private gain," notes Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.
"So in the case of the City of Bee Caves, Texas, the developer built its city hall building, but gained hundreds of acres of adjacent private property under the guise of a 'public use' that they turned into a massive shopping mall for private profits. That's a deplorable abuse of property rights."
BREAKING NEWS: Trans Texas Corridor resurrected?
P3s fell into disfavor almost immediately in Texas when it became known that they were the financing mechanism behind the Trans Texas Corridor. Texans had a visceral reaction to having their land taken in the name of a 'public use,' a road, and having it handed over to a private, even foreign, corporation for private profits.
TURF notified the Committee that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) just released a Request for Information (RFI) on the SH 130 tollway, the only stretch of the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 to ever be built, seeking information from potential developers to build 'ancillary facilities' along SH 130 that could include gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and rest area development within the highway's right of way.
"TxDOT is getting into the land development business," Hall told lawmakers. "Doesn't this sound like the Trans Texas Corridor that you just repealed from statute? So where does TxDOT get the authority to lease the public's right of way?
"This is horrific abuse of eminent domain that creates a monopolistic cash cow for a single developer and the State of Texas. Why shouldn't the original landowners be afforded the opportunity to develop that land instead of the State? How can other facilities (gas stations, etc.) off the toll road be financially viable when there is a competing facility controlled by the state and a single developer actually located on the tollway itself?
"When it costs patrons money to get on & off the tollway in order to access the facilities located off of the tollway, they don't stand a chance at 'free market' competition when the state will have granted a single developer a monopoly inside the tollway," Hall pointed out. "The State has no business selling gas or being in the restaurant business."
TURF predicted that the naturally occurring economic development alongside our interstate freeways will disappear if the state gets away with picking the winners and losers and monopolizes all the economic development by containing it within public rights of way rather than among private landowners. This also has impacts to local governments who will lose their potential commercial tax base alongside our highways.
In its RFI, TxDOT is specifically asking about funding sources and possible revenue sharing ideas. So the state wants to get in on the profiteering as well. The Texas taxpayer may also be on the hook for some of the cost to develop the facilities (and hence potential losses), since TxDOT wants the chance at revenue sharing.
TURF believes such takings for private gain sparked the defiance to the U.S. Supreme Court Kelo case across the country.
"Texans deserve to be protected from such eminent domain abuse, not to have their state government launch headlong into private economic development nor a P3 infrastructure program," argued Hall.
"This is a train wreck, and Texans need to pressure this Legislature to put a stop to it!" Hall contends.