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Editorial: Stop filching from highway fund!

Link to article here. Kudos to the Express-News for calling for a return to fiscal accountability in our State. We need our taxes to go for their intended purpose and stop this leaking boat. Until that gets fixed, don't expect the public to tolerate paying a penny more on transportation!

Editorial: Put brakes on filching from state highway fund
San Antonio Express-News
07/11/2007

Texas is the nation's fastest growing state.
New figures from the Census Bureau show that Texas gained 2.7 million residents between 2000 and 2006, an increase of 12.7 percent. Nineteen Texas cities are among the 100 fastest growing communities in the country. And six Texas cities are among the 25 most populous, with San Antonio number seven.

All those new Texans — some of whom are born here, some who move here — place increasing pressure on municipal and state infrastructure. Nowhere is the strain of population growth more obvious than on Texas roads.

Sixty percent of Texas highway funding comes from state fuel taxes and motor vehicle license and registration fees. The biggest chunk comes from the gas tax. And while the population has been growing and inflation rising, the gas tax has been fixed at 20 cents per gallon since 1991.


A report from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs lays out the issue in dollars and cents. The Texas Department of Transportation estimated in 1997 that the state needed to spend $11 billion annually on highway, bridge and aviation projects between 1997 and 2006. Actual spending for the period was $3.1 billion annually, or a shortfall of almost $8 billion per year.

TxDOT said the state should spend $4.9 billion annually on maintenance alone. The annual shortfall in the maintenance budget has been $1.8 billion.

Rather than spending more money on road infrastructure, the Texas Legislature has been finding ways to do the opposite. One-quarter of the State Highway Fund is diverted to public education.

Despite a budget surplus of $14 billion for the biennium, Express-News Staff Writer Patrick Driscoll reports that lawmakers diverted another tenth of state highway dollars to such unrelated purposes as the arts and mineral rights litigation. And the Senate quietly beat back a hair-brained scheme from the House to suspend the gas tax for summer vacation.

The first step toward getting Texas back on the road to a growing future is to stop filching the highway fund. Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, and Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, each sponsored legislation that would have ended the diversion of highway dollars. Both measures died in committee.

But even that wouldn't fill the pothole in funding. The population and construction and maintenance costs are increasing. Texas needs a revenue source for roads that keeps pace with those increases.

State leaders can't fight the numbers. The unpopular choices are to raise more tax revenue for highways, charge people to drive on them or sell or lease them as moneymaking operations to private interests. Those choices will only become more unpalatable — and the transportation crisis more serious — the longer they wait to act.

Ron Paul (anti-corridor, SPP & NAU) has more cash than McCain

Here's a presidential contender that's opposed to the Trans Texas Corridor and all the NAFTA Superhighways, the Security and Prosperity Partnership, and the North American Union driving it (who twice introduced a resolution against them in Congress)...Texas Congressman RON PAUL, and he's #3 in fundraising! His grassroots support cannot be underestimated. What a perfect wake-up for the establishment elite who try to pre-ordain insiders who are bought and paid for to run this country rather than letting WE THE PEOPLE run a candidate of the people and FOR preserving our Constitutional Republic! He and Duncan Hunter are the ONLY candidates talking about this. Check out Ron Paul...

Link to article here

Ron Paul Tops McCain in Cash on Hand

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July 06, 2007 1:14 PM

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos Reports: Though often regarded as a longshot candidate for president, Republican Ron Paul tells ABC News that he has an impressive $2.4 million in cash on hand after raising an equal amount during the second quarter, putting him ahead of one-time Republican frontrunner John McCain, who reported this week he has only $2 million in the bank.

In an exclusive interview taped Friday and airing Sunday on "This Week," Paul said his campaign is on a better trajectory than McCain's.

"I think some of the candidates are on the down-slope, and we're on the up-slope," said Paul.

Paul's cash on hand puts him in third place in the Republican field in that important metric, although he is well behind leader Rudy Giuliani, who has $18 million in the bank, and Mitt Romney, with $12 million.

Paul, who polls show with support in the low single digits, said his surprisingly strong fundraising is the best measure of his support.

"I think people have underestimated the number of people in this country who are interested in a freedom message," says the Republican congressman from Texas, who has strong libertarian leanings.

Click HERE to watch a clip from the interview.

Expose' on Trans Texas Corridor & North American Union shoots up best-seller charts

Link to article here.

'Late, Great USA' nation's No. 1 non-fiction book

Expose of North American Union shoots up best-seller charts
Posted: July 11, 2007
1:49 p.m. Eastern

© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com


"The Late Great USA," currently the No. 1 nonfiction and No. 1 political book in America according to Amazon.com.
The book, in which New York Times No. 1 best-selling author and WND columnist Jerome Corsi exposes the multifaceted plan to turn the U.S., Canada and Mexico into a North American version of the European Union, has shot to No. 14 overall.

Corsi has been widely featured on radio and TV recently, including a marathon interview last night on George Noory's "Coast to Coast AM" radio show.

The U.S. government's controversial – many say outrageous – unwillingness to enforce immigration laws and border security is, at least in part, a result of the plans Corsi exposes in "The Late Great USA.

Understanding the plan to merge the U.S., Mexico and Canada, says Corsi, is "the only context in which the current immigration travesty makes sense – and it must be stopped." Corsi is the co-author of the No. 1 New York Times best-seller "Unfit for Command" which many credit with having cost John Kerry the presidency in the 2004 election.

 
 

In "The Late Great USA," Corsi shows how the Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP, an agreement signed in 2005 by President George W. Bush, Paul Martin of Canada and Vicente Fox of Mexico, is nothing less than a full-frontal assault on American sovereignty.
This aim to create a North American Union between the United States, Mexico and Canada is the real reason behind "comprehensive immigration reform."

Says Corsi, "Bush's goal to create a North American Union – with no borders, a shared currency, and utterly no voice for average Americans in their own futures – is the real reason he won't enforce immigration laws."

Utilizing thousands of documents released as a result of the Freedom of Information Act, "The Late Great USA" shows how unelected bureaucrats in faceless agencies such as the Department of Commerce have been given the power to foist the NAU on the American public incrementally.

"The European Union, which now holds millions of voiceless, voteless Europeans in thrall to a heedless Brussels bureaucracy, was put into place little by little over a 50-year period," Corsi writes, "not by the citizens of the member states, but by elitists who disguised their goal of a regional government."

In the book, Corsi details:

1. The tactics unelected globalist business leaders, bureaucrats and taxpayer-funded academics are using to lead to the merger of the United States with Mexico and Canada

2. How the state of Texas is seizing millions of acres of privately owned land so foreign investors can cash in on a NAFTA "super-highway" from Mexico to the Canadian border.

3. How China, through its proxies in Mexico, plans to bring the world's sole superpower to its knees economically – without firing a shot.

"A North American Union would not just be the end of America as we know it," claims Corsi, "but the beginning of an EU-like nightmare – a bureaucratic coup d'etat foisted upon millions of Americans without their knowledge or consent."

"The Late Great USA" is a meticulously researched story of deceit, the chapters of which are being written in secret.

"The Security and Prosperity Partnership is not just unconstitutional, but an act of treason at the highest levels," he says. "Anyone who cares about the future of this country – our children’s future – must act now against a North American Union and the underhanded way in which our sovereignty is being compromised, one illegal alien at a time."

Legislature diverts another $1.6 BILLION away from roads, further starving the gas tax

Pat Driscoll nails it in this article. It sums up the long and short of our Legislature's total failure to address fundamental solutions to our sweeping transportation problems in Texas. The diversion of yet another $1.6 BILLION away from transportation in the new budget demonstrates a complete betrayal of the Legislature's fiduciary duty to fund our highway system properly with the taxes we already pay. Lest we forget the $14 billion surplus...the surplus coupled with the diversions, and the A&M study PROVE without a DOUBT there's plenty of money for highways WITHOUT THE NEED TO TOLL A SINGLE ROAD.

We don't need a new TAX on driving, what we need is a NEW Legislature...let the anti-incumbent drumbeat begin and let's have it culminate at the ballot box! Potential candidates: start your engines, it's time to throw the bums out!

Link to blog and story here.

Draining the highway fund
By Pat Driscoll
Express-News
July 09, 2007

State lawmakers did plenty of bellyaching about toll roads in the spring legislative session, yet curiously were bent on hamstringing transportation funding more than ever.

Draining more money from the highway fund and continuing to hobble the 20-cent a gallon gas tax, while at the same time clumsily trying to slow down private-sector toll projects, may sound like lip service to average Joes.

But lawmakers in the thick of a labyrinth of transportation bills last session put it this way: Legislators, collectively, are ... well ... stupid when it comes to tackling transportation woes.

Highway Dept. corruption in Kentucky, steered contracts to political supporters

Link to article here.

Road contracts linked to politics
Ex-official testifies in plea bargain
By Stephenie Steitzer
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The Courier-Journal

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Former state Highway Engineer Sam Beverage gave private testimony yesterday about possible legal violations regarding road contracts allegedly steered to Gov. Ernie Fletcher's political supporters, a prosecutor said.

Beverage's testimony was part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to official misconduct in connection with the investigation of the Fletcher administration's hiring practices under the state merit system.

Beverage, who originally faced a felony charge of perjury, could serve up to a year in prison, although Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland said probation is likely. Beverage will be sentenced June 29 in Franklin Circuit Court.

While Beverage's sentencing will bring the merit-system investigation to an end, it could mark the beginning of new scrutiny regarding the administration.


As part of the plea agreement, Beverage provided an hour of "open and frank discussion" about matters he was involved in at the Transportation Cabinet, Cleveland said yesterday.

He said Beverage provided a written statement and discussed, during a videotaped session, the steering of state road contracts to political supporters.

"Oh, we got information about contracts and hiring, all sorts of interesting things," Cleveland said.

Asked if Beverage's testimony indicated possible legal violations, Cleveland said, "Oh, yeah."

Beverage, who was the second-highest-ranking official in the Department of Highways, specifically mentioned Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert and Highway Commissioner Marc Williams, Cleveland said, noting, "Those names came up."

Cleveland declined to say whether Beverage's testimony directly implicated Nighbert or Williams in any potential wrongdoing.

Cleveland said he would consult with the office of Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who led the merit-system investigation, to determine which law enforcement agency should get Beverage's testimony.

"I prosecuted the case they wanted me to prosecute, and I'm finished at this point," he said.

Speaking on behalf of Nighbert and Williams, Transportation Cabinet spokesman Doug Hogan said the fact that Beverage had been charged with perjury, and then pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of official misconduct, "calls into question the person's credibility."

"I think that puts this story into a little better context," Hogan said.

Williams has been charged by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission with allegedly trying to steer a state engineering contract to a specific but unnamed firm in 2005.

If the commission finds Williams guilty, it can impose a fine of up to $5,000, issue a public reprimand and recommend that he be fired.

The commission already has settled a case against Beverage for his involvement in the same matter. Under the settlement, he admitted misconduct, was reprimanded and was fined $1,500.

Beverage has agreed to cooperate as the commission continues its investigation.

He was charged with perjury in the merit-system scandal after telling a grand jury in 2005 that politics played no part in the promotion of Highway Department employees in Eastern Kentucky.

He faced a sentence of up to five years in prison for the perjury charge.

Beverage's attorney, Burl McCoy of Lexington, said his client accepted the plea deal because it reduced the charge to a misdemeanor and allowed him to avoid an expensive trial.

Beverage was among nine state officials fired by Fletcher in September 2005, based on the governor's review of his administration's personnel practices.

The grand jury's merit-hiring investigation resulted in the indictments of 15 named individuals, including Fletcher. Fourteen other indictments were sealed.

Fletcher pardoned everyone charged in the case except himself and Beverage, whose crime had not occurred at the time the blanket pardon was issued. The charges against Fletcher were dropped in a deal with Stumbo's office.

The offices of both Fletcher and Stumbo declined to comment yesterday.

While the ethics commission did not identify the company involved in its charge against Williams, a report by the Transportation Cabinet's Office of Inspector General says it was DLZ Kentucky Inc., formerly Brighton Engineering, of Frankfort.

DLZ ultimately did not get the contract, and it has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The charge, which is pending, alleges that in March 2005 Williams indirectly tried to influence members of a cabinet selection committee in connection with a design contract for a bridge in Harrison County.

The charge says Williams violated the committee's purpose, which is "removing favoritism and outside influence" from the process of awarding contracts to engineering consulting firms.

ATLANTICA, Canada's NAFTA Corridor, draws citizen opposition

It should come as no surprise that citizens in Canada, like Texans, are galvanizing their opposition to their NAFTA supercorridor in the northeast from Nova Scotia into New York. They've figured out as we have, that it does little to benefit Canadians and has more to do with transporting cheap Chinese goods into the United States at the expense of each country's sovereignty due to the Security and Prosperity Partnership or SPP .

Groups speak against Atlantica proposal
By Robyn Young
Halifax Daily News (Nova Scotia, Canada)
June 14, 2007

Canada's largest citizen advocacy organization spoke out against Atlantica yesterday.

Maude Barlow, national chairwoman for the Council of Canada, was the main speaker at the talk at the Scotia Bank Auditorium, Dalhousie University.

She highlighted what she called the dangers of the Atlantica proposal made by the Atlantic Provinces Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies to integrate the Canada's East Coast with the northeastern United States.

"This scheme will give the United States greater access to Canadian resources without benefiting Canadians," she said.


Atlantica is part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which aims to create a common market between the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland, parts of Quebec, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate New York.

Barlow said the plan would erase border restrictions and regulations and create a huge transportation corridor to send Asian goods and energy resources to the United States.

"They're planning this Atlantic gateway megaport," she said.

If this happens, the council is concerned it could lead to highways through Nova Scotia as wide as 12 lanes across to carry the "mega" transport trucks to the U.S.

Scott Sinclair, spokesman for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, explained to the crowd gathered at Dalhousie that the implications of the Atlantica are far reaching.

The high-volume roadway would increase environmental damage in the form of emissions from massive transport trucks, said Sinclair.

"The largest vessels can carry up to 10,000 containers," he said.

Along with the environmental impact, Sinclair said Atlantica will increase energy exports from eastern Canada to the U.S. at a time when Canada's reserves of natural gas are already beginning to decline.

TxDOT fails to keep its promises, needs to be reined in

This is NOT new information to ANYONE who has been following the proliferation of toll roads in Texas or to the communities on the receiving end of them. TxDOT leaders are bullies, they're proven liars, and the Legislature had the golden opportunity to rein them in but FAILED to override the Governor's veto of HB 1892. Mark my words, it WILL come back to haunt them.

TxDOT Attacks More Communites

posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007, Texas Monthly blogsThe Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) promises many things to Texans and their elected officials, but seldom does the agency follow through on its words. For TxDOT, false promises and statements are a way of life. More communities are finding out first-hand how autocratic TxDOT has become.
In the New Braunfels area TxDOT is pushing for a loop around the town whether or not it is in the best interests of the community. Many residents there are upset by the "commando" tactics of TxDOT for its special interests. Several local homeowners are worried the newly determined route will cut through their homes and backyards.

mysanantonio.com


Another incident last May 5th at a meeting with TxDOT scheduled by Rep. Patrick Rose at the State Capitol approximately 50 Hays County Residents heard TxDOT engineers Bob Daigh and Don Nyland “whine” that TxDOT didn’t have the financial resources to resurface a “shoddy” and unprofessional job it had performed 6 months ago on FM 1826. The residents left the meeting with “a bad taste in their mouths” for TxDOT and the knowledge that the agency did not assume responsibility for the poor job and that in addition, it would not resurface the roadway any time in the near future.

oakhillgazette.com

After residents filed a formal complaint against TxDOT with the Senate Committee on Transportation as well as additional pressure applied on TxDOT by Hays and Travis County officials, the agency did a complete turnaround and stated that it would resurface FM 1826 with a hot mix material from FM 150 to Hwy 290. Residents were told that the job would be completed by the end of summer.

Currently, TxDOT again has “changed its mind” regarding scheduled repaving. According to a 6/20 letter sent by Rep. Rose, the agency has 2 additional roads needing similar work; therefore, it will request outside bids to perform the 3 jobs. FM 1826 is the primary, larger job, would begin in the Fall.

Bottom-line is that TxDOT is hard to believe and its motives generally are for special interests and not for the community good.

First one must assume that somehow, miraculously, TxDOT “found” the money to perform 3 road jobs when first it stated it hadn’t the financing to reseal FM 1826.

Secondly, it is apparent that schedules determined and made public by the agency can not be taken seriously and may be modified or completely changed at any time.

The facts show that TxDOT promises many things, but its words cannot be taken seriously by the public and elected officials, which should be noted more seriously by those who want to contract partnerships with the agency via road bonds and other ventures. How can anything TxDOT says or promises be taken seriously? Who has authorization over the agency if not legislators and the people of Texas?

Voters via legislators must stop the TxDOT autocracy. It is a shame that TxDOT cannot be trusted by community taxpayers who have paid for its creation and who must rely on it for building, maintaining and improving roadways.

Clearly, there is a trust issue. TxDOT is an agency in need of revamping and more oversight is needed by an independent committee to ensure that it operates in the best interests of the community.

To permit the ongoing behavior and "commando" actions of TxDOT is unacceptable. Currently, TxDOT is counter-productive and falsely advises the public and legislators re: the status of its financial “well-being”. Few are aware of how much tax dollars TxDOT has and the Senate Committee on Transportation should follow the paper-trail to see how the agency spends our tax dollars and monitor more closely areas of conflict and special interest motivations.

Regarding TxDOT’s motivations, at best the agency has conflicting affiliations with private industry and various questionable individuals --- even former convicted criminals, e.g., the infamous Pete Peters. Its prospective plans first must be scrutinized to ensure integrity and validity. If the agency can’t control itself, then it is the responsibility of state government --- guided by the people --- to “reign-in this wild stallion”.

Taxpayers and voters are the “bosses” of TxDOT and elected officials. It is not vice-versa, as it appears to be and how TxDOT believes it to be.

Texans deserve better!

Contact members of the Senate Committee on Transportation and ask them to investigate and revamp TxDOT for the good of the Texas community:

senate.state.tx.us

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pstern.statesmanblogs.com

The need for a law to allow Texans to recall a governor

The Need For Gubernatorial Impeachment Legislation
posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007 @ Texas Monthly blog

The Need For Gubernatorial Impeachment Legislation In Texas. Why Gov. Rick "39-percent of the votes" Perry Should Teach Political Science 104: "How to Lie to Texas Voters."

From the "git-go" Gov. Rick Perry has lied to Texas voters and has pushed the legislature to approve special interest bills and actions.

Never in the history of Texas politics has a smooth-talking governor "pulled the wool over the eyes" of taxpayers and voters the way Perry has. In the last election Perry was reelected by 39 percent of the votes cast for governor and won simply because Texas law doesn’t require a run-off.

Some of Perry’s sleight of hand:

Perry provided a sample state budget filled with zero’s to help guide legislators; it took 3 tries for the lege to get the budget approved by the Comptroller


He campaigned hard state-wide to eliminate "frivolous" medical liability lawsuits

Perry "turned the other cheek" when the home insurance industry doubled premiums overnight; months later he and the Tx Dept. of Insurance promised to return a piddly 10 percent back to customers — that never happened and the premiums remain doubled and the highest in the nation

He wanted to finance public education by charging taxes at Gentlemen Clubs — that didn’t catch on even with his party

Perry cut various vital social services including children’s health care and one year later returned some of those dollars, all the while crusading that he had championed and financed those needed programs and services

Perry stepped away from the limelight to let D.C. Congressman Tom "the Hammer" DeLay into the state capitol to brandish the sword for redistricting

Perry promised to provide relief to homeowners for 6 years of astronomical property taxes, crusaded for a 13-percent reduction after three years — after which property taxes rose again and canceled out the relief promised

The governor crusaded to deregulate higher education tuition after which UT and other institutions raised costs 3 different times

Perry pushed to deregulate electric companies after which many increased their rates to customers

Perry accepted special interest money and perks, e.g., trips to the Caribbean, which influenced his decision-making

Perry touts he created thousands of new jobs, but the truth remains that millions of Texans are without work

The governor used his Executive Authority to force sixth grade girls to receive vaccinations against cervical cancer even though doing so won’t necessarily prevent the disease — the serum manufacturer is Merck, a large contributor to Perry’s campaign.

All in all Gov. Perry has been pro his special interest campaign contributors and against Texans and their families. Seldom are the actions of the governor in the best interests of the Texas community at-large.

Currently Texas law does NOT permit voters to impeach the governor. The people must pressure the legislature to provide the legislative means to do so to ensure that the interests of the Texas community prevails against special interest unethical gubernatorial behavior and actions. The legislation is needed to protect Texans from scoundrels like Rick Perry.

Businessweek: Peak oil looming, means catastrophe for U.S. economy

JUNE 25, 2007

IDEAS -- OUTSIDE SHOT
By Eugene Linden
Businessweek
From Peak Oil To Dark Age?
Oil output has stalled, and it's not clear the capacity exists to raise production

With global oil production virtually stalled in recent years, controversial predictions that the world is fast approaching maximum petroleum output are looking a bit less controversial. At first blush, those concerned about global warming should be delighted. After all, what better way to prod the move toward carbon-free, climate-friendly alternative energy?

But climate change activists have nothing to cheer about. The U.S. is completely unprepared for peak oil, as it's called, and the wrenching adjustments it would entail could easily accelerate global warming as nations turn to coal (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/19/07, "Rx for Earth: Sooner Not Later"). Moreover, regardless of the implications for climate change, peak oil represents a mortal threat to the U.S. economy.


Peak oil refers to the point at which world oil production plateaus before beginning to decline as depletion of the world's remaining reserves offsets ever-increased drilling. Some experts argue that we're already there, and that we won't exceed by much the daily production high of 84.5 million barrels first reached in 2005. If so, global production will bump along near these levels for years before beginning an inexorable decline.

What would that mean? Alternatives are still a decade away from meeting incremental demand for oil. With nothing to fill the gap, global economic growth would slow, stop, and then reverse; international tensions would soar as nations seek access to diminishing supplies, enriching autocratic rulers in unstable oil states; and, unless other sources of energy could be ramped up with extreme haste, the world could plunge into a new Dark Age. Even as faltering economies burned less oil, carbon loading of the atmosphere might accelerate as countries turn to vastly dirtier coal.

GIVEN SUCH UNPLEASANT possibilities, you'd think peak oil would be a national obsession. But policymakers can hide behind the possibility that vast troves will be available from unconventional sources, or that secretive oil-exporting nations really have the huge reserves they claim. Yet even if those who say that the peak has arrived are wrong, enough disturbing omens—for example, declining production in most of the world's great oil fields and no new superfields to take up the slack—exist for the issue to merit an intense international focus.

The reality is that it will be here much sooner for the U.S.—in the form of peak oil exports. Since we import nearly two-thirds of the oil we consume, global oil available for export should be our bigger concern. Fast-growing domestic consumption in oil-exporting nations and increasing appetites by big importers such as China portend tighter supplies available to the U.S., unless world production rises rapidly. But output has stalled. Call it de facto peak oil or peak oil lite. It means the U.S. is entering an age when it will have to scramble to maintain existing import levels.

We will know soon enough whether the capacity to raise production really exists. If not, basic math and the clock tell the story. All alternatives—geothermal, solar, wind, etc.—produce only 3% of the energy supplied by oil. If oil demand rises by 2% while output remains flat, generation of alternative energy would have to expand 60% a year. That's more than twice the rate of wind power, the fastest-growing alternative energy. And all this incremental energy would somehow have to be delivered to transportation (which consumes most of the oil produced each year) just to stay even with the growth in demand.

Nuclear and hydropower together produce 10 times the power of wind, geothermal, and solar power. But even if nations ignore environmental concerns, it takes years to build nuclear plants or even identify suitable undammed rivers.

There are many things we in the U.S. can do (and should have been doing) other than the present policy of crossing our fingers. If an oil tax makes sense from a climate change perspective, it seems doubly worthy if it extends supplies. Boosting efficiency and scaling up alternatives must also be a priority. And, recognizing that nations will turn to cheap coal (recently, 80% of growth in coal use has come from China), more work is needed to defang this fuel, which produces more carbon dioxide per ton than any other energy source.

Even if the peakists are wrong, we would still be better off taking these actions. And if they're right, major efforts right now may be the only way to avert a new Dark Age in an overheated world.

Views expressed in Outside Shot are solely those of contributors.

Williamson’s spin on SB 792: “The moratorium doesn’t affect TTC-35"

Get the impression TxDOT is just begging for a lawsuit or for the Legislature to stop them from continuing work on the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35? The legislative intent was clear...it was to halt the TTC pending further study. The people of Texas are in an ALL OUT WAR against this Governor and his minions at TxDOT who are really a front for Cintra.

Toll boss clarifies moratorium
By Pat Driscoll
Express-News
June 27, 2007
A construction contract for a Trans-Texas Corridor toll road from Austin to Dallas could be ready within two years, and a new moratorium law wouldn't stop it, state officials said today.

SB 792 bans leasing of many new toll projects for two years, the state's preferred way to finance its border-to-border TTC network, but the restriction does not apply to TCC plans along Interstate 35, said Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson.

RIC WILLIAMSON1.jpg
Ric Williamson
That's because a TTC-35 development contract signed in 2005 covers upcoming construction contracts, he said. And that means those projects can be built using otherwise prohibited concession agreements, which raise upfront cash in return for letting companies collect tolls for up to 50 years.

"The moratorium doesn't affect TTC-35," Williamson said. "I don't know what else to say."

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, got an assurance read into the House record for SB 792 last month that says no construction of TTC-35 projects, except for Loop 9 around Dallas-Fort Worth, would start over the next two years.

Gov. Rick Perry's office told her that work couldn't start within two years anyway because environmental studies won't be finished.

But today, in a conference call Williamson and other officials held with reporters, Texas Department of Transportation Assistant Director Amadeo Saenz said otherwise.

A big-picture environmental study for TTC-35 could get federal clearance this summer and the first second-phase studies to determine specific alignments could be finished in a year or year and a half, Saenz said.

TxDOT announced two weeks ago that they're ready to pursue 87 toll projects statewide, including three four-lane TTC-35 tollways — one from I-35 south of San Antonio to I-10 near Seguin, a segment from Austin to Dallas and another from Dallas to Oklahoma.

Williamson said today that a construction contract could be ready within two years for the toll-road from Austin to Dallas.

But that doesn't mean the state will sign the contract right away, he said, not without giving lawmakers a chance to weigh in at the 2009 legislative session, when TxDOT itself and the ability to enter into concessions come up for sunset reviews.

"We'll be very judicious about that kind of stuff," he said.

Feature: Giuliani tie to Trans Texas Corridor

An article in this month's issue of Manufacturing News tells of Giuliani's ties to Cintra and Macquarie (partners and two of the largest, most expensive toll companies in the world), and, hence, his connection to the Trans Texas Corridor. We've been shouting this from the rooftops and now it's starting to get traction.

Link to view the PDF of the front page story here.

Seven in 10 Americans say economy worse, site high gas prices

We've been connecting these dots since the gas price hike after Katrina. We've also noted the negative savings rate gripping our Nation for over a year (not seen since the Great Depression and even then the negative savings rate didn't last this long). Lastly, we've also noted the growing backlash to our country's failed trade & immigration policies that have led to depressed American wages and loss of quality jobs. TxDOT's own toll viability studies show many of these toll projects will go belly up (will no longer be financially viable since there will not be enough people with the discretionary income high enough to pay the tolls) if gas is above $3 a gallon, and yet here we are at $3 a gallon and on they march in defiance of the public interest and in violation of their fiduciary duty.

GALLUP: 7 in 10 Americans Say Economy Is 'Getting Worse'

By E&P Staff

Published: June 19, 2007 11:40 AM ET


NEW YORK A new Gallup Poll will only reinforce those who claim that while the rich get richer most Americans don't feel they are sharing in the growth in our economy. The stock market may be climbing and the unemployment remains relatively low, but 7 in 10 Americans believe the economy is getting worse -- the most negative reading in nearly six years.

Only one in three Americans rate the economy today as either excellent or good, while the percentage saying the economy is getting better fell from 28% to 23% in one month.

Gallup adds: "For the first time this year, a majority of Americans are negative about the employment market, saying it is a bad time to find a quality job."

The 70% negative rating is up 10 points since April. Also, just in the past month, there has been a significant five-point drop, from 28% to 23%, in the percentage saying conditions are getting better.

"When asked about the most pressing financial problems their family faces today, Americans mention healthcare costs, lack of money or low wages, and oil and gas prices," Gallup reports. "Healthcare costs are mentioned by 16% of Americans while 13% say low wages and 11% say oil and gas prices. These percentages are virtually unchanged from last month."

The survey of 1,007 adults was taken June 11 to 14.

The fallout from SB 792, the counterfeit moratorium, begins!

As we warned from the time the Governor's bill came into play, SB 792 has more trap doors and loopholes than teeth. The PEOPLE'S BILL, HB 1892, was left vetoed while our politicians passed a pro-toll, pro-TxDOT bill so they could get on with their summer vacations, which will come back to haunt them. This way they could pretend to throw a bone (HB 1892) to the grassroots knowing full well the Governor would veto it and it would NEVER become law, while passing a toll industry bill crafted by the most detested Governor in recent history! Read about our reaction to the bill and our attempts to educate legislators on what was in it here. Perry's claiming victory and his chief toll architect Transportation Commission Chair Ric Williamson is invoking the same Winston Churchill quote we are, "Never ever give up," what does that tell you? Note that Senator Jeff Wentworth tried to make the legislative intent of this bill such that his buddy Zachry can still have access to your wallets using a 50 year monopoly & private toll CDA contract on Loop 1604! And most all of the North Texas and Houston reps and senators voted to exempt their toll projects from the moratorium to the tune of $20 billion in concession fees from PRIVATE, FOREIGN companies. The taxpayers will have to pay these fees back with interest! Time to throw the bums out! The list of the Good Guys is here. The rest SOLD US OUT!


 

You can see that Rep. Lois Kolkhorst likely got fooled with this bill, too. We tried to warn them. Read on....
Here's just two of the articles outlining the troubles with SB 792:

Perry's office sees no toll moratorium at all

By Patrick Driscoll
06/03/2007
San Antonio Express-News

Now that legislators have gone home and trumpeted how they passed a bill to freeze private financing of toll roads, the governor's office has some bubble-busting news.There isn't much of a moratorium in Senate Bill 792."Of any kind, that we can tell," said Robert Black, spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry. "Unless there was something screwy that happened."

Actually, there were plenty of screwy machinations in the Legislature as lawmakers hammered out bills to rein in tolling powers of the Texas Department of Transportation.


Slapping a two-year moratorium on privatization contracts started out simple. But skittish lawmakers carved out exceptions in their backyards, and Perry fought to keep a loophole for his cherished multibillion-dollar cross-state network called the Trans-Texas Corridor.

By the time the plotting and jawboning ended a week ago, nearly every toll road project in line for a concession contract with a private developer had been exempted from the ban.

"The governor didn't appreciate the hypocrisy of it," Black said. "These guys were going to run around and say we did a two-year moratorium, when in fact they didn't."

And that's just what legislators did say as Perry's staff began combing the bill line by line to make sure there were no surprises. The bill was still pending late last week.

"The moratorium is the wind in the sails of this session's transportation reforms," crowed Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, a rookie senator who served on the Texas Transportation Commission and filed the original moratorium bill.

In or out?

Black didn't realize it, but at least one toll-road project is covered by the moratorium — U.S. 281 in San Antonio.Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, added language to make sure the 7-mile project was in the moratorium because he, like other lawmakers, was deluged with calls and e-mails from angry constituents who live near the highway.

"The overwhelming majority of my folks say they don't want this right now," he said. "We need to pause, take a deep breath, look at all our options, all of us get better informed about our options, and then proceed two years from now."

But Wentworth was willing to go only so far.

After Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio, tacked on an amendment to stick Loop 1604 into the moratorium, an aide said a lobbyist dropped by to say the "powers that be" wouldn't let that stand. At Perry's insistence, a House-Senate committee later stripped out the amendment.

So Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio, got a clarification read into the House record that says Loop 1604 would effectively be in the moratorium, even without the specific language.

The next day, Wentworth got his own clarification on the Senate floor, saying Loop 1604 would not be in the moratorium.

Either way, there's a question on whether a proposed private concession for 40 miles of Loop 1604 could proceed without U.S. 281, since both are part of a bid process already under way and restarting would be out of the question under SB 792.

TxDOT won't comment.

But Bill Thornton, chairman of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, which is helping negotiate the concession, said it's time to take another look at financing toll roads without seeking private dollars. The bill wouldn't stop that.

"Why should we look for a concessionaire if we can do it ourselves?" he said. "The attraction of immediate money requires a return on investment to the concessionaire, whereas in government we're not looking to make a profit."

TxDOT's pursuit of a concession for U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 rang alarms for Thornton and some other San Antonio leaders two years ago, and the scuffle ended with state officials giving their word that local officials would have the final say-so.

SB 792 would chisel that gentlemen's agreement into law, giving local governments and agencies first dibs on developing toll projects and the ability to use state rights of way.

However, with Perry and TxDOT helping craft the bill in the waning days of the session, a provision was slipped in that gives the state a way to control how high toll rates can be set and how fast they can be raised for locally owned toll roads.

The provision would require market valuations to gauge how much money a toll road could bring in, including what motorists are willing to pay, and earmarking the profits to other area projects. State and local officials must agree on the terms or forfeit the toll plan.

"I'm uncomfortable with it," Thornton said of the mandate. "Government is not here to make a profit, government is here to provide a service."

Toll critics are in rare agreement with Thornton, at least to some extent, on the issue.

"SB 792 means the highest possible tolls," said Terri Hall of San Antonio Toll Party. "This policy has never had a public debate before it was adopted."

Corridor loophole
Another cloud hanging over SB 792 has to do with whether the moratorium includes the Trans-Texas Corridor leg that will parallel Interstate 35.A concession was signed in 2005 with Cintra of Spain and Zachry Construction Co. of San Antonio to draw up a development plan. Separate contracts would spin off of the plan to construct individual segments.

TxDOT officials recently said the agency might be ready to move forward with a rail project within two years.

Worried that the construction contracts might slip through the moratorium on new concessions, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, added an amendment to plug the potential loophole. But Perry balked, threatening to veto the bill.

The House-Senate compromise committee agreed to take the amendment out.

After talking to lawyers and Perry's office, Kolkhorst said she believes in her heart that there is a moratorium on the corridor contracts, according to reports. If TxDOT wants to play with words, she said, the matter could be settled in court.

"It's a strong bill with or without the amendment," she said.

Black said Kolkhorst was told that work couldn't start on corridor projects within two years anyway because environmental studies won't be finished.

But Kolkhorst may not have known that SB 792 would still allow construction contracts to be signed, though work wouldn't begin until after the studies are completed, he said.

She kind of got her hat handed to her," Black said.

----------------------------

BEN WEAR: GETTING THERE
Perry stared down legislative blitz

Monday, June 04, 2007
Austin American Statesman
You may have heard that the Legislature this session approved a moratorium on toll roads.

If so, you heard wrong. No legislators that I ran into this session wanted to snuff out tollways.

Or you might have heard or read that lawmakers passed a moratorium on long-term toll road leases with private companies. This is true, but only in the most qualified sense.

This prohibition — contained in Senate Bill 792, which Gov. Rick Perry hasn't yet signed but almost certainly will when he makes it back from Turkey — is perforated with exceptions.

Under SB 792, private toll road contracts similar to the one already reached with Cintra-Zachry for Texas 130 could be done on seven projects in Dallas-Fort Worth, a proposed Interstate 69 from near Victoria to Brownsville, anything in Cameron County and all but one project in El Paso County, and on Loop 1604 in San Antonio.

And, oh yes, after Perry threatened to veto an earlier version of SB 792, the Legislature removed language that would have made it impossible to do private toll road contracts on the Trans-Texas Corridor tollway twin for Interstate 35.

Even taking the two counties and the corridor out of the discussion — lawmakers made it clear that no contracts should be signed on the corridor for the next two years, even if they didn't outright ban them — we're talking about $20 billion in contracts on those other nine roads. That's 10 zeros short of a freeze.

The obvious question, given all the public pressure and the periodic displays of legislative umbrage this session at a Texas Department of Transportation "run amok": How can this be? Everyone said they wanted to vote for a moratorium, but we didn't really get one?

It's all about commitment. In politics, all other things being equal, the side that wants it the most and is willing to do whatever it takes is going to win most of the time. In this case, that side was Perry and the Department of Transportation.

Legislators were conflicted. They wanted to please constituents, particularly rural ones, who don't want a bunch of new tollways "owned" by foreign companies cutting through farms. They were nervous about 50-year toll road leases that might outlive their children, and about corporations toting away profits that might otherwise go to building other roads.

But lawmakers also wanted urban highways, as many as possible and as soon as possible, and the Houston and Dallas delegations in particular wanted to build and run most tollways in their areas. And legislators also didn't intend to raise the gas tax, no matter how much the fiscal logic of the situation tells them they should. Those are, taken together, competing imperatives.

So the legislative commitment to stop private toll roads stretched from one end of the Capitol to the other, but it was about a centimeter deep. Perry, on the other hand, and his compadre Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, have a passion for their agenda taller than the Capitol dome. Perry said he'd veto bills that materially curbed private toll roads and made it clear to legislators behind closed doors that he would call special sessions ad infinitum until he got what he wanted. Legislators believed him, and they blinked.

The Wednesday before lawmakers adjourned for good May 28, Williamson hosted his monthly briefing with reporters at Transportation Department World Headquarters, across 11th Street from the Capitol. By then it was looking like SB 792, which emerged as the toll road bill of choice after several pretenders had skidded into the ditch, would pass and would be acceptable to Perry.

Williamson, spotted several weeks earlier huddling with confederates at the Capitol after the Legislature passed a much tougher toll road bill, had looked grim. (Perry vetoed that earlier bill.) This day, though, Williamson sauntered into the room seeming pretty pleased with life. As he swung into his chair, he tossed some party favors onto the table, royal-blue plastic wristbands with white writing on them. The words succinctly captured why SB 792 turned out the way it did.

The Churchillian message: "Never ever give up."

House passes counterfeit moratorium, fails to fight FOR the PEOPLE'S bill!

We've come full circle. We started the session fighting this Governor, and we've ended the session the same way. The only difference is that the Legislature could have given us a slam dunk (HB 1892), but caved and left more in doubt, including the fate of the Trans Texas Corridor, than it made explicit. However, what isn't in doubt is that whatever projects move forward, we'll be charged the highest tolls!

The TTC will not be stopped by SB 792....urban toll projects will not be stopped by this. AND it gives the PUBLIC tolling entities yet another "tool" in the toolbox to charge concession fees on PUBLIC toll roads like private equity deals, which to the end user still means the highest possible tolls at a time of record high gas prices. When this stuff hits the fan, those 19 who voted against SB 792 will be vindicated. It's HB 3588 from 2003 all over again! (See more here).


Though it was evident the Legislature WAS NOT going to override the veto of HB 1892 since the Senate caved to Perry Monday, May 14, the more information about provisions of the "compromise" bill hatched behind closed doors by Senators John Carona, Tommy Williams, and Kim Brimer, among others, came to light, the more the grassroots OPPOSED SB 792.

Despite a last minute attempt to avert disaster, the House voted to pass SB 792 Saturday, May 26, 2007. When the senators brokered a deal, it became abundantly clear that the odds of stopping the SB 792 Perry freight train were slim to nil. What I kept hearing from reps was they wouldn't take on the Governor because of his threats to call a special session. The vast majority of them were more concerned about starting their summer break than passing the PEOPLE'S bill! Rather than work their colleagues in the Senate to keep the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto of HB 1892, they all threw their hands up and started the blame game, including caving on nearly every taxpayer protection.

Short of Representative Nathan Macias, it was hard to find ANYONE willing to face a MAJOR shift in transportation policy that was inserted by this Governor into SB 792 late in the session, called "market valuation." This policy has never had a public debate before it was adopted. The more legislators I spoke with, the more I realized they didn't understand the implications nor did they want to. They wanted to stick their heads in the sand hoping and wishing for things rather than face what was ACTUALLY IN THE BILL. Even grassroots heroes like Lois Kolkhorst, were left saying "I know in my heart this is a moratorium" Friday morning after the conference committee report emerged without amendment 13 and several others.

Well, "knowing in your heart" won't be enough to restrain TxDOT in the off-season when the Legislature is out of session and they proceed with extracting the MOST MONEY possible from the traveling public through market based tolls. Nineteen members could see the writing on the wall and realized this bill is just like 2003 when an omnibus transportation bill shows up at the end of a session and gets rushed through with new language that will come back to haunt reps later.

THE GOOD GUYS:

Nathan Macias lead the charge along with David Leibowitz, Lon Burnam, Joaquin Castro, Garnet Coleman, Joe Farias, Jessica Farrar, Stephen Frost, Ana Hernandez, Jodie Laubenberg, Trey Martinez Fischer, Ruth McClendon, Sid Miller, Ken Paxton, Robert Puente, Joe Straus, Senfronia Thompson, Marc Veaseyv, and Mike Villarreal.

The rest who voted FOR SB 792 can't use that excuse this time, because we educated them about what was in the bill. They also received multiple bulletins informing them about the implications of market valuation.

To thank each of the good guys use this email formula: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (ie - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). They're sure to get visits like this from the highway lobby's goons.
 

Link to story here.
 

House sends toll road compromise to governor

Bill includes moratorium on certain new, privately developed roads.

By Liz Austin Peterson
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sunday, May 27, 2007The House sent Gov. Rick Perry a compromise transportation bill Saturday that freezes most new privately financed toll road projects for two years yet dodges a threatened special legislative session.

House members voted 127-19 to accept the negotiated deal, which was approved by the Senate on Friday. The bill now heads to Perry, whose office worked on the compromise with lawmakers from both chambers.

"Today's action ensures that Texas will continue to have the tools needed to support the state's booming population and economic growth," Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody said.

Perry vetoed the first major transportation bill lawmakers sent him, saying it would shut down road construction, kill jobs and prevent access to federal highway money.

He threatened to call a special session if the Legislature overrode that veto and worked with members of both chambers to craft a compromise.

The Senate quickly passed the second bill, but the House added several amendments, forcing the appointment of a conference committee to find yet another middle course.

The legislation institutes a moratorium on most new privately developed toll roads. The compromise version includes more exemptions to appease critics, such as Rio Grande Valley officials who feared that the ban would hinder development of the Interstate 69 corridor.

The compromise bill also imposes limits on comprehensive development agreements, used in contracts for private-public road building.

Additionally, it sets up a process to determine a road's market value and makes it easier for local transportation authorities to take on projects in their areas.

Comprehensive development agreements are a relatively new tool meant to let the Texas Department of Transportation complete road-building projects more quickly and cheaply by using a single contract for both design and construction.

Those agreements have attracted the attention of multinational consortiums willing to pay large sums up front for the right to operate roads and pocket the tolls for decades to come.

That has outraged residents and lawmakers who say drivers will become hostages to the private companies, forced to pay increasingly hefty tolls.

The legislation also establishes a task force to evaluate and make recommendations for the next legislative session about private equity contracts and taxpayer protections.

Tricky Ricky HATES the PEOPLE'S amendment

Ricky’s ticked

By Eileen Welsome
Texas Observer

May 22nd, 2007 at 9:25 pm


Sources tell us this evening that Tricky Ricky is displeased with an amendment put up by state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, which closed a loophole in SB 792, the transportation legislation designed to temporarily halt the rush to privatize the state’s roads.

The loophole was big enough to drive, well, the the Trans-Texas Corridor through. And, of course, that’s exactly what Tricky Ricky wanted.

For five years, Ricky has been pushing his futuristic plan to pave the state with super-highways the width of several football fields. The corridors will eat up hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland and facilitate global trade, but they won’t reduce congestion at all, records and testimony show.


SB 792, which has passed the House and Senate, is now supposedly going to a conference committee made up of House and Senate members. The bill sponsor, State Rep. Wayne Smith, a Baytown Republican, said tonight that the conferees have been trying to come to agreement on the nearly two dozen amendments tacked on by various legislators. He declined to say what amendments, if any, are causing problems.

The loophole that Lois Kolkhorst fixed was spotted by the grassroots organization, Corridor Watch, and dealt with something called a facility agreement, which is a sub-agreement to a comprehensive development agreement.

The eager beavers over at TxDot have already entered into a comprehensive development agreement with Cintra to develop the Trans-Texas Corridor, but the legislation didn’t specificially address these facility agreements. Watchdogs fear that without the amendment, TxDot would continue full steam ahead on the TTC.

Ricky’s been threatening to hold a special session. And that might not be a bad idea, given that billions of dollars are at stake and these toll roads will affect commuters for the next 50 years.

If legislators don’t deal honestly with this hot-button issue now, they may find themselves on the griddle during the next election cycle. Various citizens’ groups are promising a jihad if the legislators don’t reign in these private toll-road deals. “We’re not going to walk away. We’re going to keep the grassroots fire burning,” says Terri Hall of the San Antonio Toll Party.

CONTACT YOUR REPS & DEWHURST, LAST CHANCE TO STOP THE TTC!

ACTION ALERT!

CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE RIGHT NOW and ask them respectfully but firmly to:

We THE PEOPLE REJECT "market valuation" that amounts to a backdoor CDA and ask that Amendment 13 be RETAINED (to stop the corridor) in SB 792. We want the Trans Texas Corridor IN the moratorium and a REAL moratorium that stops selling our highways to the highest bidder!

Find out who your reps are here.

You may contact each representative by calling the Capitol switchboard: (512) 463-4630 or email by using this formula:

For senators...
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (ie - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )
For representatives...

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (ie - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

THEN, CONTACT DEWHURST!

He wants to be Governor and he alone has the power to pressure these senators to keep Amendment 13 in the bill. He thought, as we all did, that HB 1892 included the Trans Texas Corridor in the moratorium. So please ask him to ensure the TTC IS in the moratorium as our legislators, including Dewhurst, intended!

"Please INSIST that the Trans Texas Corridor unquestionably be INCLUDED in the moratorium as you all intended by RETAINING Amendment 13 in SB 792! We're counting on you TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN!"

Dewhurst contact info:
Via web mail form: http://www.ltgov.state.tx.us/Contact/#email
(512) 463-0001 (his voicemail is already full, but keep trying!)
We've come so far, we cannot let the special interests win now...

Perry vetoes HB 1892, says amended compromise bill also unacceptable

Dictator Mr. 39% is predictable in his tyrannical temper tantrums. As promised (the only kind he keeps pertain to transportation and the Trans Texas Corridor), the most unpopular Texas Governor in modern memory vetoed the PEOPLE'S private toll moratorium bill! He said he didn't veto the HPV vaccine bill since the bill had so much legislative support behind it. Maybe Perry needs some glasses because HB 1892 had the combined support of 166 legislators! He's either got short term memory loss or he's a hypocrite.

With his compromise bill SB 792 now also deemed "unacceptable" due to the taxpayer protections put in it by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, can we expect that bill to die as well? Perry wants Kolkhorst's amendments struck from the bill before he'll sign it, which means a moratorium on the Trans Texas Corridor would have no other veto-proof legislative avenues this session.

More to come on how the grassroots plan to UNLEASH VOTER FURY on Perry's cronies in the Senate...will the Senate have the GUTS to override Perry's veto now that their "compromise" efforts are likely to fail (if they strike the Trans Texas Corridor moratorium amendment)? Will they stand with the PEOPLE of Texas, or with the special interests pulling Perry Puppet's strings?


Perry vetoes HB 1892

By Ben Wear | Friday, May 18, 2007, 04:55 PM

Gov. Rick Perry, with SB 792 remaining in the limbo of a House-Senate conference committee, this afternoon vetoed HB 1892, the legislation that the Senate bill would supplant.

Perry released this veto message at 4:55 p.m.:

“House Bill No. 1892 jeopardizes billions of dollars of infrastructure investment and invites a potentially significant reduction in federal transportation funding. Projects important to fast-growth communities would be placed on hold without alternative financing mechanisms to get them constructed. Even more egregiously, the bill serves to break up the state highway system by permitting local control over state assets.

“While I support greater local decision-making authority over transportation planning, I do not support turning over state assets to local entities. By allowing local entities to seize state right-of-way at any moment, H.B. No. 1892 prohibits the Texas Department of Transportation’s ability to issue any road-based debt instrument, such as toll revenue bonds, comprehensive development agreements, and pass-through financing deals. As a state that grows by 1,200 people each and every day, we must consider every viable option that will allow Texas to build a strong transportation infrastructure to support present and future growth.

“I am grateful that legislators are working with me in subsequent legislation to address these concerns I have expressed about H.B. No. 1892 and look forward to receiving Senate Bill No. 792 without delay.”

SB 792 about summer break, not passing a good bill

The REAL truth behind today is that Governor Perry called the Legislature's bluff. He successfully did what he did to win re-election...he got North Texas and Harris County to drink his poison pill last weekend (remember that three extra days he bought himself for arm-twisting by refusing to accept HB 1892), which was evidenced by the unanimous vote of the Senate Monday.

This is why veto overrides are so rare. The whole thing was a ruse. The Senate used HB 1892's vote margins as leverage to get Perry to the table. They never intended to override him. Harvey Kronberg was right! The rest of this was a foregone conclusion ever since. Our San Antonio guys were ready to vote against this disastrous "compromise," but voted for it since HB 1892 had a loophole for the corridor. So SB 792 with all it's horrific flaws was the only means to get a moratorium that also included TTC 35. San Antonio roads were already in both (even stronger language made it into SB 792).

However, there are so many exceptions to this moratorium, that of all the CDAs currently being negotiated, only TTC 35, San Antonio, and El Paso are in it. The moratorium does stop TxDOT from signing more. So here we are again in yet another session where a last minute omnibus transportation bill where the good stuff gets watered down and the bad stuff gets rushed through with people voting on things WITH NO DEBATE. They had a shell of a debate with foregone conclusions at the outset. It ended up being like what happened to Senator Robert Nichols who was sandbagged and brought in and asked for his opinion on the bill AFTER they had the votes to outnumber him.


Word in the "back room" today was follow Wayne Smith. The leadership said if he votes for something, follow. If he votes against, follow. That's what the Governor wants. So it went something like this: thumbs up, thumbs down, that's our ticket out of town. They had a special room off to the side of the House floor with TxDOT arm twisters...they defeated Macias' amendment to restore open government and allow PUBLIC access to toll feasibility studies....they shut down EVERYTHING. In fact, Smith said he would testify in favor of Macias' amendment to keep toll studies OPEN to the PUBLIC, then he turned on him at the last minute. Smith couldn't look Macias in the eye afterwards...what a TRAITOR! That's what they were being told would avoid a special session.

I love how these sorry excuses for human beings sleep at night when they worry more about missing summer vacation than passing a good bill (stripping this "market valuation" language) or doing what the citizens ask. Don't get mad at our San Antonio reps who heard you loud and clear; they asked us how to vote...we did the best we could given the circumstances. At least we could get the TTC 35 fixed. It's the North Texas and Harris County reps that sold the rest of the state out.

If you want to take out your venom on someone, it's the Senate. John Carona's office assured us "no compromises" on the key provisions like the buy-back clauses. They said they were pushing to get the equivalent of HB 1892 or better. I beg to differ, it's worse, far worse! This bill kicks the teeth out of the killer clause that would have chased off private operators for good. Instead, they're just crippled. We could have knocked it out of the ballpark, but our representatives acted more like politicians than public servants. That market valuation language will bury this state under oppressive tolls if we don't beat that door down next session. The Senate set the example of caving into the pressure so the House followed suit. They didn't have the guts to take this Governor down and override his veto. They wanted summer break more than fighting FOR the citizens of Texas. Even worse, the motivation to avoid special sessions is tied to our politicians' ability to fundraise. Every day they're in session, they cannot accept campaign contributions.

Guess Senator Carona's concerns about high tolls only applies when they're going to Cintra instead of his tolling authority. Both fleece the taxpayer, except under the PUBLIC toll road fleecing they justify it this way: "at least those high tolls go to build more roads." Goodie! Are these Republicans we're talking about here? Because this sounds like tax and spend if I've ever heard it.

We did get an amendment that PUT 281/1604 UNDER the moratorium (stronger than previous intent language)...but our REAL problem now is Perry's NEW language that allows the same "market value" poison to be inflicted on us through PUBLIC tolling entities...we only stopped CDAs, not the toll train. They get you coming and going...

Market valuation just opened a new can of worms. TTC 69 is still on the table though support for it as a CDA is already starting to crack. The best medicine? VOTE the rascals out.

Perry is poison for this State and no one will go up against him even though we handed them the golden opportunity for a showdown with this Governor. Even Rep. Joe Pickett voted with KRUSEE!!!

All we truly got today was TTC 35 in the moratorium...everything else just got worse. The Governor beat them with his billy club and they said Uncle inside of 30 seconds without a whimper. Like Lee Iacocca says in his new book, Where have all the Leaders Gone?

Look, at this Ben Wear story (below)...today was all about making it acceptable to the Governor, and turf battles over the pot of money they can extract from "market-based" highways rather than about the PEOPLE of TX that have to pay for these horrific decisions for generations (with interest!)!

________________________________

Hitchhikers bogging down toll road bill
House treating Senate legislation as vehicle to move other stalled measures.

By Ben Wear
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Senate Bill 792's sprint through the Legislature has run into some head winds.

On Wednesday, odds appeared increasingly slim that the key toll road bill will make it to Gov. Rick Perry's desk in time to avert a veto on another bill that SB 792 would replace.

And when it does get there, it probably will be carrying a fair amount of baggage.

SB 792, which passed the Senate unanimously Monday and then shot through bill sponsor Rep. Wayne Smith's County Affairs Committee that evening, is on today's House calendar.

A growing number of House members, according to Smith's office, have begun to regard the must-pass toll road legislation as a handy vehicle on which to hang dead or dying bills.

By one estimate, there could be several dozen suggested amendments offered when the bill comes up today.

"I would hope that we could pass 792 without amendments, but that's not likely," Smith, a Baytown Republican, said Wednesday. "I hope that the members understand that their amendments should fit the spirit of the bill."

Translated, that means: Don't try to put anything on there that Perry wouldn't like.

Given the rowdy nature of the House, and public pressure about toll roads, that might be asking too much.

For instance, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, said Wednesday that he couldn't support the bill without an amendment saying that no Trans-Texas Corridor projects would be built west of Interstate 35. Given that the Trans-Texas Corridor plan of cross-state tollways, railroads and utility lines is Perry's centerpiece transportation policy, that amendment is not likely to sit well with the governor.

"We could end up with another bill on the governor's desk that he'll veto" if members push too far with changes, Smith said.

Perry's office said he has until Friday at 11:59 p.m. to sign or veto House Bill 1892, or let it become law without his signature.

That bill contains many of the same elements as SB 792 — a partial moratorium on private toll road contracts, new limits on the terms of such contracts, sections giving local toll road agencies first shot at turnpikes in their areas — but was judged lacking by Perry.

He made it clear he would veto the bill and raised the specter of calling the Legislature into special session this summer if HB 1892 wasn't replaced with a bill to his liking.

Senate Bill 792, which began life this session as HB 1892's twin, became that vehicle.

Senators, the governor's office and the Texas Department of Transportation spent several days working out the compromise passed by the Senate on Monday. Perry pronounced himself satisfied with that version.

Supporters hoped to run the bill through the House unchanged this week in time for Perry to sign it Friday, before the veto deadline for HB 1892. Under that scenario, HB 1892 would then be recalled from Perry by a legislative resolution and laid to rest.

But the sudden effusion of amendments, along with unease among House members about getting a complex, significant bill late in the session, slowed the process.

To address this, Smith's office took the unusual step Wednesday of setting up a legislators-only room in a conference room behind the House chamber, complete with maps, the 64-page bill and other educational materials, so lawmakers could go by and learn how it might affect their House district.

At midafternoon, despite a desultory pace of legislating on the House floor, no members had yet visited the room.

If SB 792 does not get final passage in the House until Friday, and is loaded with amendments, it could be difficult to quickly reach accord with the Senate on a final bill. That in turn would force Perry to veto HB 1892, something that Smith and legislators working on the alternative bill have hoped to avoid.

Might they vote to pull HB 1892 back from the governor's desk even before SB 792 is fully cooked?

No, Smith said. "I think the members would revolt if we withdraw 1892 before the governor signs 792."

Colorado connection to Trans Texas Corridor project approved

Below is a post from the Ports-to-Plains Coalition blog that confirms the connection of this I-70 project in Colorado to the Ports-to-Plains corridor, one of the Trans Texas Corridor routes. The TTC is known as ‘high priority corridors’ outside Texas, in the congressional record and in the U.S. government code. It's not about moving people, it's about moving imported goods into the interior of the United States and destroying farms and ranches in the process.

Read more: Colorado connection to Trans Texas Corridor project approved

Council briefed on risks of Trinity Toll Road project

Link to article here.

This ill-conceived toll project has no business being built. Any thinking person can see the risk of building a tollway in the middle of a flood zone! Seriously, if the developers want this, they can build their own private road and take on the risks to the traveling public and be personally liable for it.

Dallas council briefed on risk of Trinity toll road floods
By ROBERT WILONSKY
Staff Writer
Dallas Morning News
April 14, 2014

A 9-mile toll road proposed inside the Trinity River levees would extend about 535 feet into the floodway for much of its length and run right next to the river in some spots.

Dallas City Council members also learned during a presentation Monday that the road would include a “flood separation wall” that’s not even as high as the existing levees and would necessitate an evacuation plan in the event of a 100-year flood.

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