Texas for Sale: Grassroots ask Perry to VETO bill that hands 23 Texas roads to private, foreign toll operators
(Austin, TX, June 10, 2013) - A crucial bill, SB 1730, that will effect the next three generations of Texans sits on Texas Governor Rick Perry's desk awaiting his signature. The bill would authorize the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), or toll entities, to enter into Public Private Partnerships (P3) known in Texas as Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs), for more than 20 projects, including rail and three bridges.
Grassroots groups across Texas are asking Perry to veto the bill, despite his avowed support of P3s. TURF, Texas tea parties, the Texas Libertarian Party, and dozens more watchdog and liberty groups, oppose P3s as sweetheart deals and corporate welfare, designed to extract punitively high toll rates from travelers with little choice other than congested free routes. Indeed, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin calls P3s 'corporate welfare' and Rachel Alexander calls them 'double taxation' and state sanctioned-monopolies.
Projects included in the bill:
-I-35 (many segments), I-820, Hwy 183, US 67, Hwy 114, Loop 12, Loop 9 (in DFW)
-Hwy 290, SH 99/Grand Pkwy, Hwy 288 (in Houston)
-Hwy 183, MoPac (in Austin)
-Loop 1604 (in San Antonio)
-Loop 375 & NE Pkwy (in El Paso)
-Loop 49 (in Tyler)
-Hidalgo County Loop, Outer Pkwy Project, Int'l Bridge Project, & COMMUTER RAIL PROJECTS (in Hidalgo & Cameron counties)
-South Padre Island Second Access Causeway Project (in South Padre)
-Hwy 181 Harbor Bridge Project (in Corpus Christi)
What Texans think
"Texans adamantly oppose control of Texas roads being handed to a private toll operator, much less by un-elected boards, including TxDOT. The PEOPLE of Texas haven't changed their minds since the Trans Texas Corridor or the moratorium in 2007. This is a freedom to travel and state sovereignty issue, and Texans want to maintain sovereignty over our public infrastructure, not grant it to private corporations who can GOUGE taxpayers for the next half century," Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texas TURF, warns.
"Texans cannot afford the crony capitalism that is endemic to these alliances of public and private entities, which have no taxpayer protections. We beseech you not to hand Texas roads to private corporations who will extract exorbitant toll rates (75 cents/mile) from commuters just to get to work. Texas roads should belong to Texans. It's anti-liberty and un-Texan to hand state sovereignty over public infrastructure to private, even foreign, entities for a half century in 'sweetheart' deals which guarantee profits for private companies and more congestion on free routes," insists JoAnn Fleming, Chair of the Texas Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee and Founder of Grassroots America.
Keeps the Trans Texas Corridor alive
P3s are the financing method behind the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) and the primary mechanism keeping aspects of it alive today. Loop 9 in southern Dallas has long been called part of Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 project. A public private partnership on I-35 itself is also part of the TTC concept once TxDOT abandoned new corridor options and switched to existing corridors.
During floor debate on SB 1730, Rep. Larry Phillips, Chair of the House Transportation Committee, assured his colleagues the bill had nothing to do with the TTC. But it clearly does. See this news article where former TxDOT Director admits Loop 9 is part of TTC-35 and they're now switching the name back to Loop 9.
* Extract exorbitantly high toll rates as high as 75 cents per mile (see details on CDAs for LBJ, North Tarrant Express on p. 2 here)
* Grant private, even foreign, entities state-sanctioned MONOPOLIES for 50 years
* Represent eminent domain for private gain (take land in name of 'public use,' then becomes private purpose for private gain)
* Limit expansion of free roads (guarantees congestion on the free routes) through non-competes
* Manipulate speed limits to drive more traffic to the toll road (increase speed on tollway, decrease on free route)
The CDA for SH 130 gave financial incentives to TxDOT for raising the speed limits.
TxDOT received a $100 million pay-off from Cintra (2012) for raising the speed to 85 MPH.
TxDOT subsequently lowered the speed limit on the free alternative US 183 in Lockhart.
* Put taxpayers on the hook for 'uncollectable tolls' from out-of-state & foreign drivers
* Keep traffic forecasts & revenue studies SECRET from the public
* Allow private corporations the power to tax
* Eliminate low-bid, competitive bidding, replaces with 'best-value' bidding, allows P3s to be doled out to the well-connected = CRONY CAPITALISM!
* Heist PUBLIC money for PRIVATE profits. Use massive amounts of public money (gas tax, PABs) & public debt (federal TIFIA loans, potentially the State Infrastructure Bank) to subsidize/prop-up toll projects that can't pay for themselves (see examples on p. 2 here).
* Hand control of our PUBLIC infrastructure to a PRIVATE entity. Proponents argue the STATE still TECHNICALLY owns the road, however, giving a single corporation a monopoly for 50 yrs. who has the ability to depreciate the 'asset' on its taxes is, in reality, giving the entity effective ownership of our PUBLIC roads for a HALF CENTURY!
Ever since the Trans Texas Corridor came on the scene, Texans went radioactive at the notion of having private land handed to private, even foreign, corporations for private gain, rather than a public use, and the idea that a private company could dictate what roads get built (non-compete agreements) and how high the tolls would be.
P3s differ from a completely private road/project and differ from the government simply contracting work out to the private sector since a P3 involves an ownership stake or a long-term leasehold. While claiming to be built with private money and transferring the risk from the public sector to the private sector, this controversial financing mechanism virtually always involves PUBLIC money and public RISK through profit guarantees and taxpayers being on the hook for potential losses.
Check out TURF's complete wrap-up of the 83rd regular session here.
TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending citizens' concerns with toll road policy, public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuse. TURF promotes pro-taxpayer, pro-freedom, & non-toll transportation solutions.