Ogden wants to invest public pension funds in toll roads

Link to article here.

This is called a bad case of making one bad decision turn into two. The citizens’ concerns with toll roads don’t stop with foreign or private management of our public infrastructure, it’s this concept of government making a profit off our public roadways PERIOD! Not only are these toll roads financially risky (a house of cards), they’re controversial, extort large amounts of tax money from the public for daily living (just about equivalent to taxing the air we breathe), and constitute massive eminent domain abuse forcibly taking private property not for public use, but for government profiteering!

This is a method of co-opting government employees/retirees into supporting toll roads. When they become the investors making billions off their fellow commuters, politicians think all the objections will disappear due to good ol’ fashioned GREED!

Ogden: Texas can solve the problem of financing road construction
State Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, TEXAS SENATE
Austin American Statesman
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Recently, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), in its effort to address the highway construction needs of our state, alarmed many in the Legislature and many more in my district. This is counter-productive and unnecessary. I want to report to you what can be done to get things back on track.

TxDOT is not “out of money” and can lift its current moratorium on new construction by selling $1.5 billion of voter-approved bonds. Concerns have been raised on repayment of this large sum of money. In response, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Tom Craddick, House Appropriations Chairman Warren Chisum, and myself as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee recently wrote a letter to TxDOT Chairwoman Hope Andrade. We informed her that $300 million has been appropriated to TxDOT for debt service and committed to increase funding for TxDOT in the next biennial budget.

Last November, Texans overwhelmingly approved another $5 billion in general obligation bonds for highway improvements. During the next session, which begins in January, the Legislature will pass a bill authorizing TxDOT to sell these bonds and use the proceeds for new road construction.

Later this month, the Senate Finance Committee will examine additional financing methods. Specifically, I want to explore the possibility of investing a portion of our state’s trust funds (i.e., Employees Retirement System, Teachers Retirement System, Permanent School Fund, Permanent University Fund) in TxDOT toll projects. The argument for this is straightforward. If it is such a great idea for foreign companies to invest in and profit from our roads, why isn’t it a good idea for our retired teachers and state employees to invest their trust funds in and profit from these roads?

These same trust funds currently make large investments in real estate and infrastructure outside of Texas. I think some of this money should be invested in Texas and that this would be a “win-win-win” situation. Roads will be built, the trust funds will get a guaranteed return on their investment, and the toll revenue would benefit public education in Texas.

The problem of financing the construction of Texas roadways can be solved. The solutions that I propose do not require new taxes, sales to private concerns, or destruction of the countryside with Trans-Texas Corridors a thousand feet wide. Let’s stop arguing and get to work on solutions that Texans will support.

Ogden is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.