Our victory bill that passed the House more than two weeks ago and that was voted out of Carona’s committee last week, FINALLY made it out of committee after Carona’s office delayed it in order to promote his own omnibus bill that included the moratorium. We commend his efforts to try and kick-start the reform process on private toll contracts, however, there are just too many moving parts in CDAs to be able to effectively tackle them all this late in the session. Note that Senator Jeff Wentworth stripped our roads from this House bill and still needs to amend HB 1892 on the floor of the Senate to ensure our roads are IN the moratorium!
We gave extensive testimony as to our concerns with his omnibus bill this morning in committee and if I ever get the time, I’ll post them here. But here’s just a few:
– The moratorium he included did not include Loop 1604
– The committee allowed for an amendment that would essentially give TxDOT the ability to increase the gas tax at their own discretion by determining their own highway construction index!
– Allows only two bidders on a private toll project, which isn’t competitive. Case in point, in San Antonio, the the two bidders are partners on toll projects all over the world!
– Still pays losing bidders, even those who submit “unsolicited bids.”
– Still allows private companies the ability to exploit the government’s power of eminent domain to take land for a private toll road and lease out the PUBLIC’S right of way for their own personal profits.
– Gives TxDOT and private, deregulated rail companies a blank check both for rail relocation and acquisition….one has to ask why we have a railroad commission if TxDOT is taking on this responsibility? The State Auditor had concerns about this and concluded there is no way to determine how much money the taxpayers could pay for rail on the TTC alone….in the billions!
– Continues the practice of raiding general revenue to fund toll roads (since TxDOT will not release Mobility Funds unless an entity tolls the roads)