FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Austin, TX. — People for Efficient Transportation, Inc. filed a lawsuit today in the District Court of Travis County, on behalf of taxpayers throughout Texas against Governor Rick Perry. The lawsuit takes Gov. Perry to task, as the state’s Chief Planning Officer, for allowing unlawful Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to allocate federal dollars, which includes allocating funds for Perry’s plan to privatize and toll our tax funded Texas public highways.
NO AUTHORITY TO ALLOCATE FEDERAL FUNDS
Governor Perry has mandated that MPOs shift our public freeways into tollways across the state; however, MPOs simply have no authority whatsoever to dispense funds for such an unpopular and unconstitutional scheme. That includes allocating tax dollars to Gov. Perry’s unelected, unaccountable Regional Mobility Authoritys (RMAs) which will set the toll rates for our already tax funded public highways! It’s important to note that public highways have never been shifted to tollways in the history of our country.
TEXAS CONSTITUTION VIOLATED
Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO – www.campotexas.org) and San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAMPO – www.sametroplan.org) are also named in the suit as two of the many MPO boards in Texas are violating the Texas constitution. The constitution clearly states there must be a “separation of powers between the legislative and executive branch”, however, the MPOs have legislators, yes, State Representatives and Senators, serving on these administrative boards.
The first leg of Rick Perry’s Trans Texas Corridor, a 4,000 mile plan of supertollways, was approved by Capital Area MPO in 2000 without the MPO having one statute that allowed it to allocate tax dollars to the 130 Corridor just east of Austin.
DOUBLE TAX WITHOUT AUTHORITY
“The Governor has no clothes.” said PET officer and founder Sal Costello, “At this moment, a Texas law simply does not exist to allow Rick Perry to complete his plan of converting our public highways to tollways.”
Costello added, “Rick Perry’s Double Tax tolling scheme takes existing public highway projects that are fully funded with gas tax dollars, some on the verge of completion, and turns them into toll roads at the last minute. It’s a double tax. It’s morally and ethically wrong. The Governor is being deceptive when he tells the public that he won’t toll existing highways. This deception allows billions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded roads, and right of way in Texas to be shifted to toll roads, to hold Texas families hostage to pay a toll to drive to work, school or shop. On top of that, he’s doing it without following Texas law.”
Sal Costello continued, “Gov. Perry calls his scheme to toll our already tax funded roads ‘innovative financing’. We call it Highway Robbery!”
MPOs such as CAMPO represent a hodge podge of board members. With State Representatives and Senators serving unconstitutionally on these MPO boards, State Representative Terry Keel has stated there is “an inherent conflict of interest.”
A GOOD GOVERNMENT SOLUTION
Backed by outraged taxpayers throughout the state, PET Inc. is suggesting a good government solution to the current dysfunctional and unconstitutional MPOs: 1) Dismantle the current unconstitutional MPOs. 2) Replace the current MPOs (http://www.dot.state.tx.us/tpp/mpo/map.htm) with legal entities composed of seven-member boards serving two year terms. Texas citizens should elect five “at large” seats, the Governor appoints one member, and the local transit organization appoints the seventh member of each regional board.
The Governor is coming under fire from some members of the press who see his scheme as bad for Texas. Rick Perry’s “innovative financing” made Texas Monthly’s “Top 10 ways to Fix Texas.” The article includes “Stop the toll road menace” at the #2 position. It states, “Turning planned freeways-that’s freeways-into toll roads in urban areas and holding commuters hostage is downright un-American and un-Texan.,” Texas Monthly, 8/05.
People for Efficient Transportation, Inc, is a nonpartisan grassroots watchdog organization seeking efficient transportation solutions, good government and accountability. PET is not opposed to traditional toll roads that are designed and built as whole new highways that complement free expressways. Traditional tollways are primarily funded with investor dollars. In contrast, “freeway tolls” are funded with tax dollars to create a revenue-generating machine that does not solve traffic congestion. Freeway tolls shift public highways to tollways and hold drivers hostage to pay a fee to drive to work, school or play.
People for Efficient Transportation, Inc. is represented in this suit by the Texas Legal Foundation and its President and General Counsel, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith.
It’s clear where the Perry administration stands on toll roads. The Governor and his appointees want to turn a great many of our highways into tollways. Consider this quote from Ric Williamson who was appointed by Rick Perry to govern TXDOT: “In your lifetime, most existing roads will have tolls.”
Contact: Sal Costello, Founder of PET Inc.
People for Efficient Transportation, Inc.
9901 PO Box 90715
Austin, TX 78709-0715
Texas Legal Foundation
710 West Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Texas Legal Foundation (“TLF”) today filed suit on behalf of People for Efficient Transportation, Inc. against Governor Rick Perry, the Texas Department of Transportation, Capitol Area Metropolitan Transportation Organization (“CAMPO”) (www.campotexas.org) , and the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Transportation Organization (“SAMPO”) (www.sametroplan.org).
Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steven W. Smith, who is TLF’s president & general counsel, said: “The purpose of the lawsuit is to make these local public entities more accountable to the voters.”
David Rogers, TLF’s policy director, said: “This lawsuit is exactly what the Texas Legal Foundation was chartered to do. A supermajority of Texans oppose tolls on taxpayer-funded highways, and want government to be accountable for toll decisions, but those desires have been ignored by government.”
Smith added: “Even though polls show that more than 80% of central Texans oppose the governor’s toll-tax plan, CAMPO and SAMPO have repeatedly chosen to endorse that fundamentally flawed plan.”
In the suit, People for Efficient Transportation, the plaintiff, makes the following legal allegations: (1) Neither the governor nor the Texas Department of Transportation has authority under Texas law to create special districts like CAMPO and SAMPO; (2) Legislators serving on the CAMPO and SAMPO boards violate the separation of powers provision of the Texas Constitution; and (3) neither CAMPO nor SAMPO have authority under Texas law to appropriate the tens of millions of dollars they spend each year.
The plaintiff does not request injunctive relief at this time, but expects that the Legislature will respond to a declaratory judgment in the plaintiff’s favor by adopting, in a timely manner, legislation that properly authorizes CAMPO and SAMPO. The plaintiff, TLF and others will pressure the Legislature to pass legislation that, in addition to fixing the constitutional flaws raised in the suit, makes those entities more accountable to the Texans they serve.
The Texas Legal Foundation is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advocate “conservative public policy positions that are held by a majority of Texas citizens but that have not been implemented by the government.”