SB 792


SB 792 began as a county powers bill allowing local tolling entities to have primacy on all toll projects (taking the reins from TxDOT). It was then used as a vehicle to move a private toll moratorium past the House Transportation Committee whose Chairman bottled-up the moratorium bill. The Governor vetoed the PEOPLE'S moratorium bill, HB 1892, and instead got enough senators to "cave" to move a "compromise" bill using SB 792. Not only did the bill severely gut the moratorium allowing too many exceptions, it slipped in "market valuation" which never even had a public debate. This never before heard of approach to tolling will change the face of our public highway system into an oppressively high, unbridled new toll tax system segregating those who cannot afford tolls from the efficient travel they enjoy today.  Market-based tolls through our PUBLIC tolling entities gives government and bond buyers the pot of money and taking out what they view as the greatest obstacle, the foreign management of our public assets. By allowing the public toll entities to, in effect, do the same kind of financing as the private partner AND keep the pot of money, this new shift to market-based tolls will be difficult to strip away from tax and spend governments.


SB 792 passed by the Texas Legislature in 2007 replaced ALL traditional turnpikes and unleashed the highest possible tolls under a new model called, “market valuation.” Market values cannot be applied ot a monopoly, so the term on its face is misleading. Nonetheless, the Governor and Legislature figured out a way to apply the same controversial financing to PUBLIC tolling entities as is used in a private equity model; it’s called “market-based” tolls. The law requires ALL toll projects to undergo an “independent” third party appraisal (by a Goldman Sachs, for instance) to determine the “market value” of a proposed tollway, then have the toll authority float bonds for that pre-determined up front fee (just like the concession fees in private equity deals), and lastly, the tolling entity will charge a toll rate that is no longer based on what it costs to actually build the road, but on “whatever the market will bear.” This means the highest possible taxation and, essentially, toll rates without limit. We’re already seeing toll rates as high as $1.50 a mile on 183 in Austin! So, in effect, we’ll be charged the same oppressively high tolls as if a company like Cintra were doing it! Surely this unbridled taxation will become a model nationwide.

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