As McBlogger points out transportation is getting short shrift this session. Not only is it stuck behind education and Medicaid as an issue but also water. Not that any of those are not important, but what is shows is that our GOP state elected leaders have been neglecting several really important issues for far too long.
But the other thing McBlogger points out is that now that they’ve created a bad situation, some of the supposed “fixes” are only likely to make things worse, Transportation… pissing into the wind.
All three are extremely important… all three effect the economy is very real ways and those effects, for good or ill, will be felt now and in the decades to come. That being said, someone has to say something about transportation and two bills that’ll have pretty deleterious effects need to be defeated.
1) HB 3391 – This bill gives TXDOT and the RMA’s the ability to enter into PPPs from now until 2017. The impact of this could be massive as it would shift ever increasing numbers of roads to the same old failed PPP model. We have PPP roads in this state that have been open for 7 years that are still not producing a profit and may never. This is risky finance that leaves Texas taxpayers exposed to investment banks which, let’s be honest, don’t have a stellar track record at controlling risk. If you’d like to take action against this, please email the entire transportation committee here.
2) SB 1110 – This rather odious piece of legislation allows local property taxes to be diverted to toll road schemes. As if Texas property taxes aren’t already too high, this bit of responsibility dodging on the part of the Lege would put the burden on local officials and local taxpayers for toll roads that fail to live up to the irrational revenue expectations set for them. Democrats who voted for this bill include our own Senator Watson who, inexplicably, continues his practice of just voting for anything that will, ostensibly, get roads built regardless of the cost to his constituents.
These two pieces of legislation aim to achieve a goal of providing for roads and improvements the state desperately needs. However, they do so in a way that will cost Texas taxpayers far too much and leave them exposed to risk that is simply too much to bear. While TURF and others are fighting desperately to stop the diversions of transportation taxes, it’s become increasingly obvious that those diversions can’t be stopped because they provide funding to a number of needed programs.
McBlogger goes on to point out that while it’s not perfect there is a solution.
So, what’s the solution? Easy… Sen. Eltife’s bill to index the gas tax. While I’m not thrilled with the desire to rapidly pay off the bonds we’ve sold (since paying off that money reduces that which is available to build and grow the economy which would, in turn, increase tax revenue and allow the bonds to be paid off sooner anyway), if that’s the compromise that has to be made to get this done, then that’s the damn compromise.
Of course raising and indexing the gas tax has always been the best solution. (Here is EOW’s take on Eltife’s plan). There are several other ideas out there. Ending funding diversions and raising registration fees, or all of the above. The governor is endorsing an infrastructure bank and more debt. We need to be very careful with anything the governor is proposign with the work “bank” in it. It’s liable to be just another boondoggle, aka wealth creation for his donors. Heck there’s even a plan put forward to spend $3 billion to end tolls on Texas 130.
What all of this makes clear is that other then Sen. Eltife the GOP is not really interested in fixing our transportation funding issue. For all the talk of leadership and courage when it comes to taxes, almost all of the GOP doesn’t have any. They would rather throw bad ideas at the wall to see what’ll stick. They’re looking for politically safe positions that are won’t do near enough to fix our transportation funding problem.