Legislature blinks at road privatization


Legislature blinks as it contemplates the largest tax increase in Texas history, the sale of TX roads to foreign corporations

(Austin, TX – July 1, 2009) Today, concerned citizens of Texas challenged the Legislature to stand-up to Governor Perry’s road privatization, toll road, and Trans Texas Corridor agenda in a press conference on the South Capitol steps in Austin. Texans demanded the Legislature not just roll over and play dead for Perry's agenda while the leadership of both chambers ram through three bills that will affect Texans for generations.

Concerned citizens are hopping mad about lawmakers’ suspending the rules that are in place to protect the public from a railroad job, and rushing to get home for the 4th of July holiday rather than give due consideration to what some have dubbed the largest tax increase in Texas history, selling Texas highways to PRIVATE foreign corporations. Such a deal inked in North Texas will charge 75 cents PER MILE, or $13 a DAY (like the deal just signed for the North Tarrant Express to privatize I-820) in new toll taxes, for Texans to access PUBLIC roads.

Taxpayers want Perry’s controversial and virtually universally detested road privatization schemes to die a natural death August 31 as scheduled, which will also KILL the mechanism to build the Trans Texas Corridor. Today, it appeared the citizen outcry over the bill, HB 3, to re-authorize such private toll road contracts called Comprehensive Development Agreements (or CDAs) was dead on arrival in the House.

“Texans cannot stomach any more of Gov. Perry's version of AIG (arrogance, ignorance and greed)!  His continued insistence to force privatized toll roads down the throats of working Texans is fiscally irresponsible and morally wrong,” insisted Hank Gilbert, Texas TURF Board member and President of Piney Woods Subregional Planning Commission.

“With these types of projects failing all over the United States, as well as Texas (SH 121), every landowner and taxpayer in Texas will be responsible for the ‘bailout’ of Perry's AIG.  Add to that, the possibility of investing state employee and teachers retirement funds into these road projects, with his proposed ‘Texas Revolving Fund,’ and you have a Governor that has lost all respect for the people of Texas!

“The elected members of the Texas House and Senate need to do what the public elected them to do…Just Say No!  If they don't, then it may very well be the last bad decision that they are allowed to make for the citizens of the great state of Texas!” said Gilbert.

Public subsidies for private profits
CDAS are half-century long sweetheart deals that also suck-up virtually ALL available gas taxes and other highway funds to prop-up toll projects that aren't even toll viable (can't work without subsidizing them). Read about the deals in North Texas that use $1 billion dollars of Texans' gas taxes and public funds, yet motorists won't be able to use the roads without paying $13 a DAY in homage to Spain here.

TURF argues that proponents tell us the private operators are bringing all the money to the table so it's okay to sell-out the taxpayers in sweetheart deals (like non-compete agreements that prohibit ANY new lanes or NEW roads from being built that would "compete" with the private operators toll cash cow as a way to GUARANTEE congestion on free roads). But the FACT is our GAS TAXES and other PUBLIC money are going into these deals, in some cases more public cash than private, then the foreign toll operator charges motorists a DOUBLE TAX to access PUBLIC roads. CDAs also mean massive multi-generational DEBT!

"These public subsidies for private profits are the centerpiece of Rick Perry's special session, yet he claims to be a 'conservative' whose ranks opposed the federal bailout bill that socialized the losses (of private industries) and privatized the profits. There's a name for Perry's actions - hypocrisy," notes TURF Founder, Terri Hall.

Toll authority to raise toll rates 32% because BURIED in debt it can't repay
Read about it here.
Concerned citizens see this as an ALL-OUT ASSAULT on our freedom to travel!
For more info on how just how bad these private toll contracts are for the taxpayers, read more here.

SB 1 to raid public employee pension funds & teacher retirement fund
In another bill for the special session, SB 1, lawmakers resurrect Sen. John Carona's SB 1350 that will set-up a Transportation Bank as a private corporation (controlled by the Governor's political appointees, the Texas Transportation Commission) in order to raid teacher retirement funds and public employee pension funds to invest in these risky toll road schemes that are failing all over the country.

"The revolving fund could provide a vehicle for the Texas Retirement System and Employee Retirement System to invest in state infrastructure, a policy (Sen. Steve) Ogden supports." - Texas Monthly, April 28, 2009

This idea is designed to set-up a "Revolving Fund" to finance toll projects they can't find private investors to bankroll. TURF said it’s the duty of our lawmakers to protect the integrity of public employee retirement funds.
In addition, the Revolving Fund only contributes to the gas tax diversion problem since it will divert MORE gas taxes to toll roads (gas tax can be deposited into the Revolving Fund and recycled to fund toll roads that aren't viable/100% self-sustaining).

Connecting the dots...
Perry, Dewhurst backroom deal to raid funds.
Texas Monthly calls raiding pension funds "irresponsible" and "immoral" here.

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