Link to Strayhorn’s editorial here. Link to competing editorial by ex-Transportation Commissioner here. This is the same guy who said we need all these toll roads AND we need to raise the gas tax AND to tie the gas tax to inflation at last September’s Transportation Leadership Forum here in San Antonio.
Strayhorn: On the roads; Trans-Texas Corridor to benefit special interests, not the public
By Carole Keeton Strayhorn, TEXAS COMPTROLLER
Austin American Statesman
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Do we really need a massive, foreign-owned toll road system in Texas? No.
Gov. Rick Perry and his special interest crowd at the Capitol are not listening to the people of Texas.
At 55 hearings across the state, thousands of hard-working Texans said, “No,” to Perry’s still secret deal with a foreign company to build toll roads across Texas.
The governor and his transportation officials insist on going forward with his Trans-Texas Corridor, the largest land grab in Texas history — seizing half a million acres of private property. Texas property belongs to Texans, not foreign companies.
I am adamantly opposed to the governor’s Trans-Texas Catastrophe. His secret agreement will allow a foreign company to own the for-profit toll road “concessions” for more than 50 years.
I have outlined a transportation plan that puts Texans first, not special interests. In a Strayhorn administration, we will once again have a transportation system that is the envy of the nation, with freeways not tollways.
My long-term solutions expand freeways using existing rights of way under two completed Texas Department of Transportation studies, increase efficiency and use of our existing rail lines and ports, expand telecommuting, and appoint an inspector general at TxDOT and a transportation ombudsman to listen to Texans. This protects Texas farm and ranch land, improves coastal evacuations, increases capacity of existing freeways and railways, and encourages family and environment friendly telecommuting.
Visit my Web site, www.onetoughgrandma.com, to learn more.
The Perry administration says we have insufficient funds for transportation and have to toll existing roads such as U.S. 290 in Austin and Houston, U.S. 281 in San Antonio, and Texas 121 in Dallas/Fort Worth. I oppose this double taxation.
The truth is that TxDOT’s budget has increased an incredible 117 percent under this administration. The transportation budget increased $8.2 billion to a total of $15.2 billion. By comparison, our state budget has increased $44 billion dollars, 45 percent in the same time. We have plenty of money; we need the courage to spend it wisely. In 25 years, just maintaining the current transportation funding would provide $190 billion for roads.
We have $4 billion in Texas Mobility Bonds approved on my motion in 2005, an additional $3 billion in revenue bonds approved in 2003, increased federal funds and increased tax collections at the state level. Texans have paid more in inspection fees and license tags in the past six years. Make no mistake, a fee or a toll collected by the government is a tax.
I stand with Texans from the Rio Grande Valley to the Red River who oppose the governor’s attempt to seize land and build tolls across Texas. I listened to the people of Texas, and the people of Texas are overwhelmingly opposed to this $184 billion boondoggle.
TxDOT is telling Texans they cannot stop this boondoggle — even if they elect a new governor. That is dead wrong. I will blast this corridor off the bureaucratic books, replacing it with my common-sense plan to address our transportation needs.
Texans deserve the truth. Much of the work to get Texans from here to there has already been done — by TxDOT itself. In fact, I provided three reports to TxDOT to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor:
•TxDOT’s own 1999 state analysis, approved by TxDOT and then-Chairman David Laney, calling for the expansion of Interstate 35 using existing rights of way.
•The 2001 TxDOT Ports to Plains study that will relieve existing I-35 congestion by improving transportation from South Texas through West Texas using existing roads.
•My 1999 efficiency report that recommended increasing telecommuting to 10 percent. Family friendly telecommuting is up to 15 percent in my agency.
Tolling roads that were planned as freeways, and converting freeways to tollways is double taxation, and it is wrong.
I am adamantly opposed to tollways when we are awash in transportation funds, to double taxation and to seizing more than half a million acres of hard-working Texans’ property and turning them over to a foreign company. Texans are opposed to it, and the governor knows it. That is why he is postponing collecting tolls on existing roads to just after the election. The people of Texas will not be fooled.
In this election, there are two sides and one choice — the Austin political establishment and its land-grabbing, secret, foreign-owned tolls versus the people and their desire for freeways. I stand with the people. I will shake Austin up.
Strayhorn is an independent gubernatorial candidate.