Link to article here.
Senator Robert Nichols removed the State Auditor from oversight over these private toll rip-offs, called CDAs, in his bill SB 1669 (which didn’t pass), so he is likely the one who removed the Attorney General from any oversight in the TxDOT sunset bill, HB 300 (which also didn’t pass). Nichols knew what none of us did yet, that Attorney General Greg Abbott was holding up the two big North TX CDAs. Guess the BIG MONEY got to Nichols and/or the senators who were members of the HB 300 conference committee, Nichols, Glenn Hegar, Juan Hinojosa, Kirk Watson, and John Carona.
Taxpayer advocate and private property rights hero Rep. Lois Kolkhorst’s big contribution to the original sunset bill (that got stripped in the senate) was to have the Attorney General and Comptroller certify every CDA with their own signature on the dotted line. She instinctively knew that any politician who aspires to higher office would never sign their own name to such a taxpayer rip-off. She was right. We must insist her provision stays in ANY bill addressing CDAs. However, we predict this move by Abbott will be the death-knell for CDAs for good. FYI, the Legislature DID NOT re-authorize CDAs so they are set to sunset August 31. Let’s see if Perry addresses that in the call for the anticipated special session…
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott refuses to OK North Texas tollway contract
Friday, June 12, 2009
By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER / The Dallas Morning News
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has refused to sign off on the first of two major private toll road projects approved for North Texas earlier this year.
Abbott said provisions in the contract with the Spanish firm Cintra, which is slated to build the North Tarrant Express in Fort Worth and the mid-cities, violate the Texas Constitution and must be amended.State law gives Abbott the power to hold up the contracts indefinitely if they are not “legally sufficient.”
Negotiations between his office and the department have already extended for weeks beyond an initial 60-day deadline.
Cintra has agreed to spend billions in North Texas to build the North Tarrant Express toll road and to rebuild the LBJ Freeway.
But in return, the state department of transportation has pledged more than $1 billion in tax dollars toward the projects. As a result, main lanes on both highways will be free, but Cintra will collect tolls for 52 years on adjacent lanes.
The LBJ Freeway contract has not yet been reviewed, but it is likely to be saddled with the same legal issues.
Abbott said the department’s contract for the North Tarrant Express obligates the state to pay $740 million over several years to Cintra.
“The Texas Constitution says that one Legislature cannot financially bind a future Legislature,” he said.
The contract must be amended to reflect that any promises for payment are subject to discretion of future sessions of the Legislature, Abbott said.
Any provision that leaves payments from the state subject to future action by the Legislature could give Cintra pause.
TxDOT continues to work to meet Abbott’s objections and to settle on terms agreeable to Cintra, spokesman Chris Lippincott said.