It's about PEOPLE…TURF covers Transportation Summit

Link to Terri Hall’s Examiner article here.

“Transportation should be about people, not projects,” advised Congressman John Carter, who addressed the 12th Annual Transportation and Infrastructure Summit in Irving today. I couldn’t agree more. However, when I asked him afterwards what his position was on toll roads and the sale of our infrastructure to foreign entities through these public private partnerships (or PPPs), his impassioned speech ended-up just that, a speech.

Anyone with a pulse knows Rick Perry’s push for privatizing public roads just got soundly defeated during the special session in July. Carter repeatedly called himself a Texan first. Congressman Carter, Texans DO NOT want their roads sold to Spain! It’s breathtakingly UN-Texan! While he was quick to disavow the Trans Texas Corridor (which affects his district), he was more than happy to stick it to urban commuters with 75 cent a mile toll taxes or $13 a DAY to get to work through PPPs. It’s the “not in my backyard” syndrome that pro-tollers routinely use to pit rurals against urbanites.

When billions in gas taxes and public money are pouring into these PPP deals, the sale of Texas highways impacts EVERY Texan. This urban-rural divide has got to STOP. We’re running out of money for ANY free roads in this state (if we’re not there already), and rural lawmakers have the most to lose. They’re facing the very real possibility that NO funding will trickle down to their areas as urban areas gobble up ALL available funds for highly leveraged toll roads.
Carter noted the summit wasn’t about adopting European or Pan-American transportation policies, but about Americans creating a uniquely American concept of transportation. Newsflash: road privatization started in Europe, and it’s failing in Europe. Now they’re transporting their risky leveraged debt, pension-raiding schemes overseas to spread the misery around! Investors write themselves sweetheart deals, thanks to their willing accomplices in government, at the expense of the taxpayers.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson fared even worse on the taxpayer index. She said: “Nobody wants to do anymore taxes. There are taxes and there are tolls, We have to do one or the other. We can’t build roads without tolls and public private partnerships.”

Whoa, oh yes we can build roads without tolls. Dust off the Texas Transportation Institute’s report that said precisely that! To summarize, it stated we could raise the gas tax 8 cents and index it to inflation or simply index the gas tax and we wouldn’t need to do a single toll road in the state of Texas.

Toll are taxes. They think we’re stupid and can’t figure that out. Politicians tell you with a straight face that they’re NOT raising taxes when they charge you a toll to access public roads (built with gas taxes, stimulus funds, and heaps of public money), and many of which are existing roads you’ve already built and paid for! I’m sick and tired of the mentality in Austin and Washington. They won’t fight for something that’s politically tough, so instead they shove the most EXPENSIVE transportation tax down Texans throats like it’s somehow a more palatable solution.

Congressman Ralph Hall and Pete Olson fleshed out the panel, both pro-toll. Most surprising of the bunch was Olson’s support for Perry’s “innovative financing” schemes when he’s from Fort Bend County where there is tremendous opposition to both the Trans Texas Corridor (or TTC) and the Grand Parkway, which is being considered for privatization and likely a leg of the TTC.

The keynote speaker, Congressman John Mica of Florida, ranking member of the House Transportation Subcommittee, floated a proposal to abolish the federal gas tax and levy a sales tax on the total sale price of gasoline each time we fill-up at the pump. He, too, noted that any straight gas tax increase is a non-starter. Are you beginning to see it’s because they want to find excuses to enact new taxes that charge you much higher transportation taxes?

Even more frightening is the reality that the road building industry is seeking to raise a whole litany of taxes in order to fund roads. Judging by the plethora of sessions dedicated to financing options (code for taxes), taxpayers are about to be hit with a tidal wave of higher taxes. With diversions of the gas tax still alive and well and with a highway department that’s run amok, our elected representatives clearly need a reality check.

Perhaps another front in the heated tax revolt brewing all over the country is necessary to help them get the message that taxpayers first demand accountability with the money they already take from us, then a curb on tolling, and lastly that they properly fund roads with the MOST AFFORDABLE solution, like indexing the gas tax.