With the news that TxDOT now wants to buy back interstate highways from the federal government and put tolls on them, hopefully this issue will reach it’s tipping point.
The Texas Department of Transportation is pushing Congress to pass a federal law allowing the state to “buy back” parts of existing interstate highways and turn them into toll roads.
The 24-page plan, outlined in a “Forward Momentum” report that escaped widespread attention when published in February, drew prompt objections Thursday from state lawmakers and activists fighting the spread of privately run toll roads.
“I think it’s a dreadful recommendation on the part of the transportation commissioners here in Texas,” said Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas.
Sen. Carona doesn’t like it, that’s not a good sign. It’s also should come as no surprise that the report recommends corporate tax breaks – A GOP staple for any plan.
The report not only advocates turning stretches of interstate highways into toll roads, but it also suggests tax breaks for private company “investment” in such enterprises.
It seeks changes in federal law to allow the use of equity capital as a source of transportation funding. Along with that, it calls for altering the tax code to “exempt partnership distributions or corporate dividends related to ownership of (a) toll road from income taxation.”
It’s painfully obvious that TxDOT only knows one song and they sing it over and over and over again. It’s called Toll Every Road, Even The Existing Ones. If that’s “forward momentum”, it would be scary to see what they think moving backwards is.
There was much backtracking toward the end of the article but that usually occurs when these schemes see the light of day.
[Transportation Department spokesman Chris Lippincott] said he’s surprised by the surprised reactions, noting the agency discussed the issue at four public meetings and sent a link to the draft report last December to all members of the Texas Legislature.
Besides, he said, state law would prevent the conversion of interstate highways into toll roads unless such a plan gained votes of county commissioners and taxpayers in a referendum.
Anti-toll road activist Sal Castello, the Austin-based founder of the TexasTollParty.com, said he’s frustrated by the “schemers and the scammers” who “never stop” divisive toll road proposals despite widespread opposition and fretted that a required referendum could be creatively worded to disguise the conversions.
Perry spokesman Robert Black said the report in no way contradicts Perry’s repeated promise on highways that “if it’s free today, it will be free tomorrow.”
That holds true, he said, unless local voters say otherwise.
Let’s be clear what our choices are for paying for our transportation infrastructure needs, and yes they are needs. We can accept TxDOT’s plan which is to toll existing highways and every new highway that’s built in Texas. Or we can raise the gas tax, statewide by 8 cents and index it to inflation, and use toll roads little, if at all. Either way taxes/revenues have to be raised to pay for the new roads.
The Republican/TxDOT plan is an attempt to hide the tax increase as tolls. The Republicans who run our state have take so-called “no tax” pledges and think they can fool people into believing that tolls are not taxes. They believe they can put tolls on everything, mostly urban roads, and their constituents in rural areas won’t have to pay the “new” tax. Although, in their next breath, the GOP leaders will say we need the roads for the economic benefit of the whole state. It’s a GOP scheme to try and hide a tax increase. They also hope this tax increase will miss most of their constituency. And the part is does touch will be in the urban areas, and the hope is that they’re wealthy enough to afford the tolls and won’t mind paying for the new roads.
It’s the long used GOP scheme of trying to tell the American people they can have something for nothing.Â Like St. Ronnie’s “voodoo economics” and all it brought were deficits as far as the eye can see.Â That scheme has won elections but has never delivered on it’s promise.Â It’s the same thing with corporate toll roads.Â This scheme will cost the average Texan much more than raising and indexing the gas tax.
Clearly a simple raising and indexing of the gas tax is the broadest, cheapest, and fairest way to pay for our transportation infrastructure needs. Which is more than likely why, as long as we have Republicans running our state, it won’t happen.Â It’s long past time to bring sanity back into our tax debate and hopefully idiocy like this can be the tipping point.