Today, both the grassroots and Senator John Carona learned a lesson…choose your words carefully. It can be easily interpreted from yesterday’s Austin American Statesman article that Carona turned on the citizens with this statement about the CDA moratorium bill SB 1267: “I don’t intend to move it.” Though a compromise bill is supposedly in the works, a bill with two-thirds of the Legislature signed on in support simply must move out of committee. It’s a no brainer.
CONTACT DEWHURST TO GET SB 1267 OUT OF COMMITTEE!
Contact Lt. Gov. Dewhurst at (512) 463-0001 to ensure he gets the message. We EXPECT a bill with 81% of the Senate as co-authors to make it to the floor for a VOTE!
Plenty is going on behind the scenes, and EVERY taxpayer protection and reform needs to continue to be addressed and become law, but let’s get this moratorium OUT OF COMMITTEE and to the floor for a vote!
Read the following and YOU DECIDE:
Link to Carona’s official statement in response to the uproar from the Statesman article here.
Some calls in protest seem to have indicated that the public thinks the moratorium will kill the Trans Texas Corridor or mean that further needed reforms won’t be tackled. Truth is, taking away the CDA financing mechanism of the TTC will be put on hold and the study committee the bill requires will bring forward the concerns with CDA financing and likely KILL the TTC once and for all.
Also, let it be clear, that we expect ALL reforms to continue to move ahead in tandem with the passage of the moratorium. Those reforms cannot wait 2 more years. Let’s also clarify that the moratorium DOES NOT put ALL toll roads nor ALL road projects on hold, it simply puts the controversial private financing (toll equity) deals ON HOLD pending further study.
Senator Robert Nichols makes clear that SB 1267 is NOT DEAD!
For immediate release, the following is statement from Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) on SB 1267:
The effort to halt private toll road deals is not over. We will continue working to prevent Texas from entering into bad agreements that will hold our transportation system hostage for the next half century.
Pursuing a short-term solution with dangerous long-term consequences is not the answer to alleviating traffic congestion. A two year “cooling-down” period gives us a chance to get these contracts right before we sign away control of our transportation system.
State Sen. John Carona has learned in the last 24 hours how quickly a politician can go from champ to chump in the anti-tollroad blogasphere.
The Dallas Republican, chair of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, has become something of a rock star in those circles for his direct — and surprisingly effective — challenge of what had become the new orthodoxy in Texas transportation circles. In the past few months Carona had described the Texas Department of Transportation and Texas Transportation Commission chairman Ric Williamson as “arrogant,” filed bills to rollback some of the agency’s toll road tools and held an all-day hearing March 1 where toll opponents got their best chance to fire back in the past four years.
And he signed on as co-sponsor of SB 1267 by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, which would allow no more private toll road contracts with the state for two years. When more than 125 legislators signed on to the House and Senate versions of the bill, a seeming veto-proof majority, toll opponents saw a chance to deliver a crippling blow to Gov. Rick Perry and his Trans-Texas Corridor plan, if not to his whole toll road agenda.
Then Carona was quoted in this paper and the Dallas Morning News today indicating that, well, he didn’t plan to let SB 1267 come up for a vote in his committee. Tarrant County officials, at yet another Carona hearing Wednesday, had made it clear they don’t want a moratorium because it could delay for years some road projects they were counting on to get going.
People like David Stall, with anti-Trans-Texas Corridor group Corridor Watch, and Austin toll opponent Sal Costello went into action. Carona’s office was flooded with demands that he give the bill a vote, and some of his staffers said, well, he’d been misquoted.
No, Carona’s office, later said, the news stories got it right. But he issued a statement at mid-afternoon trying to put his position on SB 1267 in context.
“There are things we need to accomplish this session, such as stopping or reducing diversion of transportation revenues, and indexing the motor fuels taxes,” the Carona statement said. “If all we do is pass SB 1267, then we have told TxDOT it is okay to build all future roads as toll roads, just not (private) toll roads… . We have heard the public loud and clear about toll roads, public private partnerships, and the Trans Texas Corridor. We have also heard from Tarrant County and others for whom SB 1267 creates a hardship, and we have an obligation to listen to them as well.”
Link to the original Statesman article here.
Tollway freeze bill frozen
Committee chairman, a co-sponsor of moratorium on private road contracts, says no vote likely on bill
Thursday, March 22, 2007The chairman of the Senate's transportation panel, despite being one of more than 125 legislators co-sponsoring legislation to shelve private toll road contracts for two years, said Wednesday he won't give the measure a vote in his committee.
"I don't intend to move it," said Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. Carona has repeatedly criticized Texas Department of Transportation policy and officials in recent months and is among 25 Senate co-sponsors of SB 1267, the moratorium bill by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.
Carona is trying to work out a large compromise transportation bill with toll policy supporters and has struck a more conciliatory tone in recent days. Carona aide Steven Polunsky said that although Carona thinks that some sort of controls on private toll road contracts are in order, a two-year freeze might remove the only option available to get some badly needed road projects done.
Carona and his committee, which includes Nichols, spent most of Wednesday afternoon listening to — and sometimes debating with — local elected officials from the Dallas-Fort Worth area concerned that a moratorium on such toll road arrangements might delay by several years road work nearly ready to begin.
"To put a moratorium on these projects is like a stake in the heart for many of us," said Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes. "We feel we're going to be very, very damaged."
Nichols, a former Texas Transportation Commission member, says such contracts with private companies have the potential for long-term financial damage, at least based on language in the first two such arrangements between the state and private companies. Pending contracts for Texas 130 southeast of Austin and Texas 121 in Collin County set out broad areas in which the state, over a period of more than half a century, might have to pay the companies if it builds competing roads.
Many senators are concerned that private road contracts, because companies must make profits, would have higher tolls than roads run by government agencies.
Carona's committee Wednesday considered seven bills that in various ways would rollback some of the powers the Legislature granted to the Texas Department of Transportation in 2003 and 2005. Carona said the committee probably will vote on some of them today.
Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, carried four of those bills, including one that would outlaw private road contracts with the state and another that would require that toll revenue be used only on the road where the tolls are charged.
Ogden likens what has happened to Texas transportation policy to a golf bag. The rules of that game allow a golfer to carry 14 clubs. Over the past four years, as the Legislature tried to find new ways to inject money into an increasingly cash-starved transportation system, "We gave TxDOT 21 tools in the golf bag when they really only need 14," Ogden said. Allowing the state to grant long-term tollway leases to private companies, Ogden said, is "the 21st club."
Carona, who is carrying a bill that would use an inflation index to annually increase the state's long-frozen 20 cents a gallon gas tax, used his Wednesday hearing to step up the pressure for such legislation. The tax, last increased in 1991, has lost about half its value to inflation and traffic increases. He asked everyone who testified whether they would support a gas tax inflation index. Overwhelmingly, the answer was yes.
However, the answer in the House, where by law tax increase bills must originate, remains no.
Rep. Jim Keffer, an Eastland Republican who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a few weeks ago heard Rep. Mike Krusee's gas tax indexing bill in his committee, but he has left the Williamson County Republican's bill pending. He said Tuesday that his inclination is to let it die.
"If the whole committee came to me and said, 'Let's do it,' I'll have to give it a lot of credence," Keffer said. "But they haven't done that."
Carona told his Senate committee about the House position on the gas tax.
"They have 'tax fatigue,' whatever that is," Carona said. "That's all fine and well. But there's not an ounce of statesmanship in tax fatigue."