Pro-toller Peter Samuel calls us Nazis for opposing privatization

Link to article here.

In fact, the marriage of the corporation with the state is far more aligned with Nazism (fascism) than those looking out for the taxpayer. So the tollers are WRONG again. He also tries to downplay the Texas Transportation Institute study that says we don’t need to toll to meet our future transportation needs. Well, of course, Mr. Samuel, billions in tolls collected by private companies will always generate more tax revenue than a gas tax.

If your goal is to enrich corporations, tolls are the way to go. If your goal is to provide transportation, then the gas tax system is fair and superior. TxDOT is a governmental entity paid for by and charged with serving the Texas taxpayer. Their goal needs to return to providing transportation, not taking out high interest second mortgages on the public’s highways and sucking billions out of the Texas economy and sending it overseas.

He claims we have no solutions…nonsense. There’s plenty right here. Mr. Samuel and the tollers appear to be having a grown-up hissy fit. He accuses those opposed to privatization of using hysterics to educate the public, but what is Mr. Samuel doing in this article? Seems like a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Freeze bills have veto-proof two-thirds in Texas, now what?
By Peter Samuel
Toll Road News

Concession moratorium bills now have more than the two-thirds signed on in both houses of the Texas legislature needed to over-ride a veto promised by Gov Rick Perry. This is a huge political victory for the anti-toll/anti-privatization forces. In the course of just a few weeks they have gotten legislators who just a couple of years ago led the push for a massive expansion of tollroads and the use of concessions to renounce their own handiwork.

In the House there are now 105 signatories out of 150 for HB2772, the identical bill to SB1267 which has had 25/31 signatories from the time it was filed. It provides for a 30 month moratorium on signing of toll concessions through to Sept 1 2009.

If the bills were voted on now they would bring to a halt roughly $20 billion of concession projects in the pipeline. Not only that but a moratorium as specified in 1267/2772 would probably kill the Texas concession program – the intention of many in the freeze movement

Gen Sal Costello’s blitzkrieg

This whole wild campaign for a tollroad concession moratorium in Texas could be seen as the biggest and most dramatic setback for the forces of enlightenment and progress since mid-May 1940 when Reichsgeneral Heinz Guderian’s XIX army corps panzers burst out of the Ardennes forests of Belgium, established pontoon bridges over the Meuse and cut off the bulk of the French and British armies, leading to the fall of France to the Nazis – despite France’s numerical superiority in soldiers, tanks, and artillery, its equality in airplanes, and its strong defensive positions.

The moratorium campaigners, long a bunch of obnoxious noisies at meetings and with hysterical propaganda on the web – that hasn’t changed – suddenly became a serious political force that executed a sudden blitzkrieg that ran right around the toll establishment of the Texas Transportation Commission, TxDOT, the Perry administration, Mike Krusee and all with the 1267/2772 bills.

In the spring of 1940 the defection of marshal Phillippe Petain agreeing to form a puppet Vichy regime with the enemy is mirrored in the defection of Senator Robert Nichols, former concession advocate on the Texas Transport Commission for six years, now on the other side.

The situation which just months ago looked so bright, now looks grim for privately financed and operated roads in Texas.

Bargaining now

However in conversations over the past few days it is clear there is not going to be an early vote on the bills. The legislative leadership is not going to move the bills quickly and some of those most vocal publicly in supporting the bills privately don’t want that either.

Now there is bargaining. And there are rival bills. And widespread talk of crafting an omnibus compromise bill incorporating bits and pieces of the different bills.

Quiet backlash against freeze

And there is a quiet backlash against the moratorium – in places.

Support for the moratorium is strongest in Austin and San Antonio and up and down the I-35 corridor. Support for concessions prevails among the local leadership in the metro areas of Dallas Fort Worth and along the I-69 corridor from Corpus Christi on the Gulf through Houston and into northeast Texas. Concessions are now crucial to advancing the road system in Dallas Fort Worth where the metro area council of governments has established a role with SH121 in negotiating concessions for the future.

Shape of compromise

There will be some kind of moratorium. That’s clear from the sheer weight of numbers of legislators signing up for 1267/2772. But as toll concession supporters tell it there’s still the basis for negotiating a compromise. The freezers’ great political weakness is that they have no Plan B, nothing positive to offer by way of a substitute for the toll and concession program

They have made great propaganda out of misrepresenting a Texas Transportation Institute study to show that the existing gas tax, indexed, can provide the funds for sufficient free roads. That served a useful mobilizing purpose for the freeze mob by deepening their paranoias about TxDOT’s deceptions in advocating tolls, but it won’t stand scrutiny. No likely level of gas tax can produce the large sums of money needed for new road capacity in a state growing as fast as Texas. And of course free roads attract more traffic and exacerbate demand as compared with tolled roads.

The biggest political vulnerability of the freezers will be the charge that they are blocking much needed road improvements. That may not play in Austin or in the I-35 corridor but it will have more resonance in Dallas Ft Worth and along the route of I-69 along the Gulf Coast and in the east of the state where there is no north-south expressway standard highway at all. Trans Texas Corridor 35 is doubling up on I-35. TTC 69 is doubling up on nothing except US59, a surface arterial that goes through the middle of almost every little town and hamlet along the way.

The bargaining strategy seems to be to allow highways with local support to proceed while putting a hold on those where opposition is strongest, and for a time on considering new ones. That doesn’t look good for the Cintra/Zachry project for TTC35, San Antonio to north of Dallas, or for further concessions in the Austin area, but it would preserve Dallas Ft Worth’s program and TTC69.

TxDOT’s powers seem likely to be heavily curbed and those of regions and local government increased. The local public toll authorities – RMAs as they are called – will have a larger role but they will often be forced to do traditional public toll financing rather than concessions.

That’s the present talk as we hear it.

CORRECTION: In an earlier article we wrongly reported there is an election later this year in Texas. The election is due late 2008.

TOLLROADSnews 2007-03-20