How about they start making the trust fund more solvent by ending the diversions of federal gas tax to pay for transit that only an estimated 1% of travelers use?
Just How Screwed is the Highway Trust Fund?
Posted By Ryan Holeywell | April 24, 2013
The Highway Trust Fund won't be able to meet its obligations come 2015, according to a statement by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to the House Budget Committee.
Federal lawmakers, the report says, would have to cut transportation spending by 92 percent or raise the gas tax by more than 50 percent in order to bring revenue and spending in line.
The Highway Trust Fund, which gets its money from taxes on gasoline and motor fuels, is the source of money for federal spending on highways, bridges, roads and transit. The fund has struggled for years to remain in the black -- ever since federal transportation spending started exceeding the dedicated taxes used to pay for it.
DOUBLE TAX: Texas lawmakers vote to use property taxes to build toll roads
By Terri Hall
April 25, 2013
While the Texas House and Senate are busy competing over which chamber can come up with the most funding for public schools, another top priority of state government has taken a back seat -- roads. Though roads are needed to get to school, work, and make our economy thrive, state lawmakers continue to demonstrate that roads are NOT a top funding priority for state government. Instead, lawmakers are content to push the state’s obligation to fund our state highway system down to the local level by using LOCAL sales tax and property tax to build STATE highway projects.
Senate Bill 1110 that passed the Texas House today will go straight to Governor Rick Perry’s desk. The bill gives local authorities the ability to use property tax and sales tax to build TOLL projects. So the road would be built with tax money, but Texans would be charged a toll to actually use the road.
More on NTTA driver’s $30,000 debt to the NTTA, this time from her lawyer
By Rodger Jones/Editorial Writer
Dallas Morning News
April 19, 2013
I have heard from a lawyer hired by a woman I’ve written about who was stressed out about a $30,000 debt to the NTTA. She admits to having been out there using the roads while still owing money. At the same time, her beef is figuring out how to deal with the agency and negotiating a settlement — as many do — about the add-on fees.
I asked the woman’s attorney, Thomas S. Howery, to boil his perspective down for me in an email, which follows. The questions he raises are timely, since the Legislature is in the process of passing bills that strengthens NTTA’s hand in dealing with scofflaws.
Toll Road Blues--YOU Will Pay for Out of State, Mexican Travelers on new SH 130 Toll Road
Monday, November 12, 2012
They started charging you to drive on that new 85 mph State Highway 130 toll road over the weekend. It will cost about $12 to drive the 91 miles from Interstate 10 near Seguin to I-35 north of Georgetown, or about 15 cents a mile.
And congratulations, the people who run the highway say you will also be paying for people from Mexico and from many other states in the U.S. to drive on the highway.
"There is no cross country collection mechanism yet," Project Engineering Manager Guy Russell told 1200 WOAI news.
Actually this article makes it sound as though we'd be getting a portion of our existing vehicle sales tax dedicated to build free roads, but actually the Governor's plan is to use that TAX money to leverage more toll road debt. So they'll build the road with some of our tax money, but still charge us tolls to drive on it.
So if the Governor gets his way, he'll take the most promising pot of money we have to build free roads and get back to pay as you go and hijack it to build more toll roads and issue heaps more DEBT! Perry now advocates century bonds that will take 100 years to pay-off - well beyond the useful life of the road. He thinks we can 'manage' all this debt. But it's unsustainable. Under Perry, the state has amassed $31 billion in principle & interest in just the last 8 years maxing out the borrowing against future gas taxes and even dipping into general revenue to back bonds. Imagine what Perry would do with a new revenue stream!
Perry Backs Dedicated Car Sales Taxes for Highway Fund
By Aman Batheja
April 12, 2013
Gov. Rick Perry on Friday came out in support of dedicating a portion of future sales tax revenue from car sales to the state’s highway fund, while also leaving the door open to spending more of the Rainy Day Fund on infrastructure projects that he had proposed three months ago.
“With the rapid growth of our population and our healthy economy, the amount we take on in those sales is increasing steadily,” Perry said during a keynote speech in Austin at a transportation infrastructure conference hosted by the Texas Lyceum. “I propose that we dedicate the future growth of sales tax collected on motor vehicles to transportation infrastructure.”
Texas is following the same model, though Governor Rick Perry is fond of comparing Texas as better than California in every way, his transportation policies are incurring massive taxpayer debt and they're building toll roads that will be in a sea of red ink for a generation or more!
California: Toll Roads Generate $1.7 Billion In Red Ink
Analysis shows two Southern California toll roads were unsustainable from the very beginning.
April 12, 2013
The debt load accumulated by the toll roads in Orange County, California is unsustainable, according to a study released Tuesday by the Pacific Research Institute. Researchers Donna Arduin, former budget director for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Wayne Winegarden, a senior fellow at PRI, examined the financial status of the publicly owned Foothill-Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency's 241 toll road and the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency's 73 toll road.
Advocates insist tolling is a superior transportation funding mechanism because it is based on the concept of "user fees" -- those who use the toll road are the ones who pay for it. This concept has gone out the window with the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) toll roads, which the report found use an estimated $1.7 billion in taxpayer subsidies. Worse, the roads are deeply in debt.
Experts: State’s turnpike corruption ‘the worst such case’
By Brad Bumsted
Thursday, April 11, 2013
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Turnpike scandal is the worst of its kind in the nation in recent history, experts say.
“There's been nothing as systemic, as enduring and widespread,” Peter Samuel, publisher of Tollroadsnews.com in Frederick, Md., said of allegations in a state grand jury report last month.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane has said the investigation continues; the grand jury had concluded that eight people, including a former Senate Democratic leader and former top turnpike officials, used the agency as a “cash cow” to raise campaign money for lawmakers and gubernatorial candidates. Campaign donations and gifts paved the way for rigged turnpike contracts in a pay-to-play scheme, the grand jury said.
Millionaire travel uninterrupted: Texas taxpayers to takeover municipal airports
By Terri Hall
April 1, 2013
It sounds like something you’d hear on April Fool’s Day, but in Texas, Governor Rick Perry and his highway department are quite serious. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) just announced it plans to takeover operations of 13 municipal airports across the state that have lost federal funding due to cuts triggered by sequestration.
Perry asked TxDOT to temporarily pay for air traffic controllers, presumably, for public safety, but it’s no coincidence that the governor and his Transportation Commissioners jet set into and out of these small airports for state business, though commercial air travel is much more cost effective for taxpayers. It appears this airport stopgap will directly benefit the governor and his highway commissioners. Perry also uses these airports for campaign travel, especially when he ran for president in 2012.
Pennsylvania: Eight Charged In Toll Road Scandal
Officials, politicians and contractors charged in bribery scandal at Pennsylvania toll road.
March 20, 2013
Top officials at a toll road in Pennsylvania have been charged with shaking down motorists and pocketing the cash. Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane last week filed charges against a former state senator, two contractors and five Pennsylvania Turnpike employees, including the CEO, chief financial officer and a commissioner.
"The former state officials charged wielded extraordinary power which they wrongfully used for self-enrichment and for their own political purposes, rather than for the good of the commonwealth and its citizens," Kane said in announcing the charges. "Their criminal acts resulted in the misdirection, misuse, and theft of millions of dollars of public monies."
Broken promises? Texas lawmakers fail to end gas tax diversions
By Terri Hall
March 28, 2013
Texas Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, and House and Senate budget writers have so far failed to end diversions from the gas tax and help fix the structural road funding shortfall in the budgets passed last week. Perry, Dewhurst, and Straus all promised to end diversions of the gas tax in an effort to enact truth in budgeting -- to ensure taxes collected for a specific purpose actually go to fund that purpose.
The Texas Constitution restricts the use of state gas tax revenues to "...the sole purpose of acquiring rights-of-way, constructing, maintaining, and policing such public roadways..." Yet lawmakers continue to raid the gas tax to fill holes in the budget for non-road purposes like funding public pensions and benefits for state agencies other than the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
Senate approves budget, warned of transportation 'fiscal cliff'
By Peggy Fikac Austin Bureau
San Antonio Express-News
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
AUSTIN — Texas senators highlighted efforts to restore education funding and keep up with health services for the poor as they approved a $195.5 billion state budget Wednesday.
But Senate leaders warned there is much work yet to be done to meet the state's needs.
Texas faces a “fiscal cliff” on transportation that remains unchanged by the budget, said Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. Some advocates, meanwhile, pushed to put more money into public schools and other programs as Senate Bill 1 advances.
TxDOT recently posted a sampling of the cost savings they've achieved under the leadership of its new Executive Director, Phil Wilson.
See the achievements here.
Among the listed cost-saving achievements it shows TxDOT has reduced the size of its fleet (estimated savings $50 million/yr), switched from conventional to synthetic oil (estimated savings $1.4 million/yr), renegotiated energy contracts (estimated savings $4.5 million/yr), and refinancing its debt on the Central Texas Turnpike System (savings of $200 million over the life of the bonds).
The web post says:
These cost savings reflect the work of resolute, knowledgeable and collaborative professionals determined to solve our state’s toughest transportation challenges and be good stewards of taxpayer money.
Here's a few of the articles resulting from our press conference at TURF Lobby Day at the Texas Capitol.
Texans to lawmakers: no more tolls
By James Jeffrey
Austin Business Journal
March 13, 2013
Texans from across the state gathered at the Capitol Tuesday to urge Senate and House budget writers to accept long-term road funding solutions and avoid raising tolls.
State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and State Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, have filed Senate Bill 287 and House Bill 782, respectively, that would allocate revenue from motor vehicle sales tax to the state highway fund.
Representatives from Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom are concerned those bills have been sent to budget committees to die. They oppose an alternative solution, SB 1632 by State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, that would fund transportation projects and authorize fees, which they argue would result in more tolls for Texas road users.
This is sorely needed in Texas where not only are ALL unelected boards setting and raising toll rates at will without voter consent, the unelected Transportation Commission is also imposing tolls on previously free lanes in a DOUBLE TAX rip-off of Texas-sized proportions! Texas does nto have statewide initiative referendum, which is why this horrible transportaiton policy has not been remedied. So much for the fantasy image that Texas is freedom-loving and a low tax state. Tolls represent the largest tax increase in Texas history.
Washington: Voter Initiative Kills New Toll Roads
State official rules Transportation Commission can no longer set tolls in Washington state.
Converting freeways into toll roads is one of the most popular types of project among transportation bureaucrats and certain politicians. When asked their opinion on the wisdom of tolling, voters have expressed a far different sentiment. In Washington state, for example, there is now no question that Initiative 1185, which took effect last December, will block a number of tolling projects that have been in the works.
"There will be no unilateral increase in tolls by the Transportation Commission because the voters said no to agency-imposed increases in November," initiative sponsor Tim Eyman said in a statement. "That means no tolls for 405 HOT lanes, no tolls for the Alaska Way Viaduct, no tolls for the Columbia River Crossing, and no toll increases on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge."
When certain groups of a special status get free rides on toll roads, there will be no end to the groups seeking a way out of paying this new tax on driving -- brought to you by Texas Governor Rick Perry and the Texas legislature. In many cases, carpoolers get a free or discounted ride on toll roads, those with electric cars sought a free ride on toll roads, now some veterans will get a free ride on toll roads. We think ALL Texas taxpayers should be spared this punitive new tax on driving and return to a freely accessible public roads for ALL. Tolls restrict our freedom to travel, period.
Bill would require free toll roads for some veterans
By Ben Wear
Austin American Statesman
March 6, 2013
Four years after the Legislature passed a law allowing wounded and disabled veterans to drive for free on toll roads, about half of Texas’ nearly two dozen tolled roads and bridges are still charging them for passage.
A House bill set for its first hearing Thursday could eliminate that practice by simply changing one word in the statute — “may” to “shall.” State Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Corpus Christi, who carried the 2009 bill allowing toll agencies to discount or forgive tolls for veterans who are officially disabled, were awarded a Purple Heart or a Medal of Honor, now believes the option needs to become a mandate.
Charging Texans an extra 15 cents to 75 cents per mile to get to work, isn't fiscally conservative or sustainable. Taking away existing free roads by slapping tolls on them and building those toll projects with tax & fee money, so the road is 100% paid for, is highway robbery. No one should have to pay a toll to drive on it, period. Ebullient politicians gleefully announced their double tax rip-off. Texas doesn't have a road policy -- it has tolls, tolls, tolls by default and lack of leadership.
Those who have tried to solve the problem with higher taxes, get cut-off at the knees, yet what are tolls if not a Texas-sized tax increase -- by unelected boards to boot? Tolls are the MOST expensive and unaccountable way to fund roads. It's time for government to tighten its belt. Texans are sick and tired of being asked to bail out our politicians from their bad decisions and their refusal to properly fund a core function of government -- building roads!
Wear: If all else fails (politically), toll
By Ben Wear
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Austin American Statesman
Listening to transportation officials last week extol the virtues of what will be Austin’s seventh tollway, I couldn’t help but think of John Carona.
Carona, make that state Sen. Carona, is a Dallas Republican who just about broke his legislative pick in 2009 trying to get a “local option” transportation bill into state law. His measure, which passed the Senate, would have allowed county commissioners in urban areas to ask voters to OK a local gas tax or to increase existing automobile fees. The point was to raise money for local transportation projects.
No matter how you slice it, 'complete streets' are Agenda 21 and sustainable development initiatives designed to be anti-car by mandating streets accommodate bikes and pedestrians at the expense of drivers. Bikes can already lawfully share all roads, so this really seeks to give cyclists special lanes all their own. It's also resulted in shrinking the existing footprint for autos in order to re-do our streets for bike lanes and sidewalks. Since 99% of all travel is done by vehicle, such a law would use scarce resources to re-structure our roads for hike & bike lanes only 1% of travelers use.
And this bill would leave it up to an un-elected Transportation Commission as to how to decide what defines a 'complete street,' not our elected officials.
A Texas Lawmaker Wants Every New or Redone Street in the State to Be "Complete"
By Eric Nicholson
February 8, 2013
In November, Mayor Mike Rawlings took a stroll down Bishop Avenue to inaugurate its status as a complete street, the term of art for roadways designed as much to welcome pedestrians, cyclists and small-scale retail as to accommodate cars. It was a consummation of sorts of the city's prolonged flirtation with the concept.
But if you thought the embrace of a generally hidebound bureaucracy like Dallas meant the whole complete-streets thing had jumped the shark, you'd have been wrong. It had only partially jumped the shark. Now, the Texas legislature could push it the rest of the way.
San Antonio, TX is listed among those cities with incomes that can least afford a car payment for the average cost of a new car. Adding tolls to Texans' daily commute will not solve the affordability of driving problem our nation faces, yet that's the de facto transportation policy in Texas and many other states - tolls and debt to fund roads since the gas tax is a fixed amount and has not kept pace with inflation and is no longer adequate to fund road expansion or even to maintain our state highway system.
It's time to re-think the punitive taxation involved in tolling, and look to dedicating other existing taxes on roads and vehicles (that are being to diverted to other purposes) solely to transportation to ensure roads are adequately funded without tax increases that hurt Texans and our economy.
New Cars Increasingly Out of Reach for Many Americans
By Paul Eisenstein
Wed., Feb. 27, 2013
Looking to buy a new car, truck or crossover? You may find it more difficult to stretch the household budget than you expected, according to a new study that finds median-income families in only one major U.S. city actually can afford the typical new vehicle.
The typical new vehicle is now more expensive than ever, averaging $30,500 in 2012, according to TrueCar.com data, and heading up again as makers curb the incentives that helped make their products more affordable during the recession when they were desperate for sales.
Link to article here.
TxDOT has worked a deal to spend the $100 million concession fee it received for increasing the speed limit on SH 130 to 85 MPH for non-priority projects. I use the interchange at I-10 & Hwy 46 in Seguin frequently and it may have a bump in truck traffic, but nowhere near the gridlock of the 100 Most Congested Roads. Both of these projects serve as feeders to Cintra's toll road. So basically Cintra's payment helped itself.
Also note, despite a whole lot of legislators claiming you can't toll existing roads in Texas, TxDOT does it routinely (note plans to convert existing Hwy 71 in Austin to toll lanes with Cintra's money, leaving frontage roads as the non-toll as they allowed Cintra to do to Hwy 183 in Lockhart to build its SH 130), which is why HB 1054 needs to pass to protect taxpayers from such outrageous double taxation.
TxDOT revives Texas 71 tollway project
By Ben Wear
Austin American Statesman
Wed., Feb. 27, 2013
The Texas Department of Transportation, in part using money generated by the Texas 130 tollway, has revived dormant plans to build toll lanes on Texas 71 from near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Texas 130.
Officials estimate the 2-mile-long project, which could begin before the end of 2014, will cost about $140 million and take two years to complete.
There's growing concern that our personal information is being sold or divulged without our permission by any number of government or private institutions. Now there's proof that the Texas DMV has indeed been selling Texans' private personal information to a plethora of businesses with a keen interest in driver information -- over $2 million/yr's worth!
Texas DMV Sells Personal Information To Hundreds Of Companies; Drivers Not Allowed To Opt-Out
February 13, 2013
Fun, dubious, privacy-violating stuff happening out in Texas where the Dept. of Motor Vehicles has made a tidy sum selling the information it collects (including names, addresses and makes/models owned) to a variety of private companies.
The Texas DMV claims its "top priority" is protecting drivers' information, but that hardly seems to be the case when it's pulling in $2.1 million a year selling it off. There are protections in place, but they are flimsy at best.
- Putting lipstick on the P3 pig - 'availability payments'
- Loop 1604 could be handed to private toll operator for 50 years
- TX lawmakers vote to sell-off 20 roads to private entities
- Highway Trust Fund needs to be cut 92%?
- VA Residents protest toll lanes on I-395
- Reasons to be wary of public private partnerships
- Legislators pass law to use property tax to build TOLL roads
- Trans Texas Corridor update: Hwy 59 gets I-69 designation
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