Link to Krusee’s speech published in Toll Road News here.
TXDOT’S TOLLS NOT FREE MARKET NOR A USER TAX
Let’s compare a genuine free market experience with TxDOT’s NEW version of tolling existing highways and right of way:
BUYING A CAR: (Free Market)
• Freely choose when, where to buy among competitors
• Price shop
• Choice of models, makes, options
• PAYMENTS END ONCE CAR PAID FOR!
TxDOT’S TOLL ROADS: (MONOPOLIES)
• No choice, tolling existing freeway with no other alternate non-toll expressway
• Toll rates dictated to you.
• No competition; 50 year monopoly
• TOLLS NEVER END EVEN ONCE ROAD PAID FOR!
Here’s what the National Motorists Association says about toll road privatization:
“Privatizing highways grants a monopoly over publicly owned infrastructure, it’s market principles figuratively at the end of a gun barrel, and ‘private’ toll roads use the state’s exclusive eminent domain powers to grant a monopoly to the toll road operator.” Read more here.
Now, about this claim that tolls are a user tax…Traditional toll roads that are completely new roads (new right of way) using no other taxes to build or maintain it could perhaps call the toll a user tax. However, TxDOT’s NEW version of tolling existing highways uses GAS TAXES and right of way acquired using gas taxes and eminent domain to build toll projects, hence it’s NOT a user tax. US 281 improvements and all the current toll projects in Bexar County will be using YOUR GAS TAXES to build them. So you’ve already paid a tax to help build it, but you won’t be able to drive on it without paying a lifetime toll tax, too.
See what Commissioner Larson said about TxDOT’s deception: “TxDOT is playing games with how these projects are going to be paid for. They’re saying it’s going to be paid by the tolls. That’s not an accurate assessment. There’s going to be a lot (of taxpayer dollars) involved. They can’t make it work otherwise” (to WOAI TV, August 3, 2005). In fact, our MPO Transportation Policy Board (which Commissioner Larson is a member) has set aside more than $500 million in YOUR gas taxes for toll projects.
Julie Brown of TxDOT admitted on camera to WOAI July 29, 2005 that toll revenues from 281 users will be used as leverage to build more toll lanes on 1604 (Read it here). My friends, TxDOT’s tolls are not a user tax (in their own words)! Also, the improvements to 281 were 100% funded in 2003 & 2004 (see plan here) and are still funded (see article here) because they officially let a contract to Zachry in November of 2005 to build the tollway before it was halted due to a lawsuit and the feds giving TxDOT a spankin’. There is NO JUSTIFICATION to charge us a toll tax on an existing freeway especially when even the improvements are already paid for! It’s a money grab, pure and simple.
Even Fitch Ratings Special Report on Toll Road Privatization (March 22, 06) claims the DOUBLE TAX (gas tax plus tolls) is a HUGE problem for pro-tollers, “The public views tolls synonymously with taxes and a form of DOUBLE TAXATION…A backlash could be problematic for both governmental entities and concession holders.” You betcha!
The same report also clearly states why the Governor and Legislature set-up the Regional Mobility Authorities (tolling authorities) and why the Governor, Mike Krusee, and other politicians insist on the privatization of publicly-owned infrastructure: TO SHIELD THEMSELVES FROM THE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES OF TOLLS!
“Distance Government from Toll Increases: While this is a double-edged sword from a credit standpoint, the political risk related to toll rate increases could be minimized by transferring the authority within an overall rate-setting framework to the private sector. The absence of political agendas and the separation from electoral politics should allow for steady, streamlined rate increases over time.” — Fitch Ratings Special Report on Toll Road Privatization, March 22, 06
TxDOT’s version of tolling existing freeways and right of way is NOT free market, and is NOT a user tax; it’s a NEW TAX on driving. We already pay a user tax, the gas tax. The more you use, the more you pay. The more our population grows, the more the gas tax revenues grow with it. Alternative fuels will be taxed as well (bills have already been before Congress), so this notion that the gas tax is disappearing due to alternative fuels and better gas mileage is false. Last I checked we still pay gas tax every time we fill up, and we can all rest assured politicians will be sure to tax all new energy sources that eventually do replace the gas tax. Send a message to the politicians that this NEW TAX on driving will indeed BACKFIRE.