08.31.07

Will TxDOT’ Plan To Toll Interstates Be Tipping Point?

Posted in Around The State, Congress, Privatization, Road Issues at 1:23 pm by wcnews

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.  Like St. Ronnie’s “voodoo economics” and all it brought were deficits as far as the eye can see.  That scheme has won elections but has never delivered on it’s promise.  It’s the same thing with corporate toll roads.  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.  It’s long past time to bring sanity back into our tax debate and hopefully idiocy like this can be the tipping point.

10 Comments »

  1. salcostello said,

    August 31, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    The Texas Transportation Institute report says tolls are NOT needed, that indexing the gas tax and placing the incremental revenue in the mobility fund to pay off bonds allows us to build the roads we need now.

    Once placed – the tolls will NEVER be removed from our Austin freeways.
    The Ledge has an opportunity to index the gas tax every 2 years.

    The last CAMPO public hearing for freeway tolls is Sept 10th at the Capitol (6pm)
    please put it on your calendar

    Since 2004, our show of force has proven to push back the corrupt politicos who benefit from tolling our freeways. They fear the voters wrath – if enough of us are there on the 10th watching them WE CAN STOP THE DOUBLE TAX TOLLS.

    – we need you on Monday, Sept 10th!

  2. Capitol Annex » Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup: September 3, 2007 said,

    September 3, 2007 at 8:17 am

    [...] WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on TxDOT’s plan to buy back interstate highways from the federal government and put tolls on them and asks Will TxDOT’ Plan To Toll Interstates Be Tipping Point? [...]

  3. Eye on Williamson » Texas Blog Round Up (September 3, 2007) said,

    September 3, 2007 at 9:03 am

    [...] WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on TxDOT’s plan to buy back interstate highways from the federal government and put tolls on them and asks Will TxDOT’ Plan To Toll Interstates Be Tipping Point? [...]

  4. antitollrepublican said,

    September 4, 2007 at 9:07 am

    ok… while i agree 150% with the point that tolling existing roads is crooked and NOT the thing to do… i do take exception with the blame game you write in your otherwise good point of view. as a long time republican… i am disgusted with Rick Perry and the other republicans that are advocating these toll roads. However, your stance that this is “The Republican/TxDOT plan” – just isn’t true… this is a bipartisan fleecing of the public. note that prominant democrats: karen sonleitner, sam biscoe, gonzalo barrientos, and who can forget that toll troll dawna dukes…. and many other democrats are just as guilty as the republican highway robbers.
    so, rather than trying to use this issue to flame the republicans… why don’t you join with the sane republicans, sane independents, sane libertarian, and the sane democrats and fight these corrupt politicians -republican and democrat alike – and help stop the theft of our free roads… rather than trying to use this issue as a platform to spout anti-republican propaganda?

  5. wcnews said,

    September 4, 2007 at 11:21 am

    While I agree that Democrats are not leading as they should on this issue, keep in mind that they have very little real power to do anything on this issue. Toll roads are all the rage, not only in Texas, but around the country because of a neglect of our transportation, as well as other infrastructure (sewer, energy, etc.), over the last 30 years. Ever since the ALL government is bad mantra began sweeping the nation.

    Because of that neglect, in Texas the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1992 – coincidentally the last time Texas has a Democratic governor – and since then we’ve been getting further and further behind. I’ve taken Democrat Kirk Watson to task on this site for his caving in on this issue. And agree with you about Barrientos, Dukes, Biscoe and Sonleitner (who was voted out) about giving in on this issue.

    It does not take away from the fact that in every position of power in Texas’ state government is held by a Republican. At this point and time the Democrats are forced to work within this GOP framework, or plan if you like. As long as the current crop of GOP “leaders” are running the state they will not raise the gas tax. Therefore tolls are the only answer available the local Democrats incorrectly believe. Until our current crop of GOP leaders are replaced, this will not change. That’s why I use most of my ammo on the GOP.

    Therefore while I do believe the Democrats are guilty too, they’re not “just as” guilty as the Republicans.

    Thanks for commenting and reading the blog. Keep the comments coming.

  6. antitollrepublican said,

    September 4, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    ok…let’s address your comments…
    1st)
    “It does not take away from the fact that in every position of power in Texas’ state government is held by a Republican”
    austin is the nucleus for testing and implementing the concept of tolling our tax paid for free roads.
    CAMPO is the “executive” arm of the transportation authorities for Austin and the surrounding area. nothing happens without their approval.
    who held the position of power on that agency when the so-call toll solution was initially approved?
    as i remember it…senior senator barrientos held chairmanship over CAMPO at that time. at the same time…he held the title Senate Finance Committee Chairman…which correct me if i’m wrong…is exactly chump change on the power structure.

    likewise…dukes….who still continues to ignore her constiuents (me included) a 7 term member of some seniority serves on the Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the Special Issues subcommittee on Appropriations, member of the Health and Human services subcommittee on Appropriations, Chair of Budget and Oversight for the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee, and is a member of the vey powerful Calendars committee(nothing gets to the house floor without their approval).
    i can continue on if you want… but i think it is nieve/politically tunnel visioned to purport that republicans are the only ones “with power” are the pushing these toll roads down our throats.

    2nd)
    you state: “Because of that neglect, in Texas the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1992 – coincidentally the last time Texas has a Democratic governor.”

    while the governor has influence… it is congress that writes legislation and it is their responsibility to write laws that raise the gas taxes.
    while there may have been a republican governor since 91… the democrats held the majority until 2002 in both chambers of the legislature , thus your logic of no gas tax raise since 1991 is somewhat faulty.
    also note… on 4/26/06, it was the texas house DEMOCRATS that proposed a “Gas Tax Holiday” … to provide relief for Texas drivers struggling with skyrocketing gasoline prices.

    quotes:
    “We need gas to get to work and to get to school. Record breaking gas prices are causing ordinary Texans to lose a lot more of their paychecks. That’s money needed for food, housing, clothes and other everyday necessities,” said Democrat Representative Trey Martinez Fischer.

    “The gas tax is one of the most regressive taxes we have. No matter how much money you make, we all have to drive. We need to provide Texans with tax relief at the gas pump,We are calling on Governor Perry to add the ‘Gas Tax Holiday’ to the agenda for this special session.” said Jim Dunnam, House Democratic Leader.

    BTW… “House Democrat Leader”… sounds like a hefty title for someone NOT in a position of power.

    for the record… like you, i agree with you perry needs to go… and every other republican that supports these toll road schemes…
    however, i still think you are using this issue (because perry is the head toll troll) as a pulpit to spout political partison propaganda and unfairly lay the blame on the republican party.
    i say the self interest crooks in both parties need to go….and i think there’s plenty of blame to be allotted to the republicans and democrats.

    it’s a real problem, and we all need to forget about party affiliations and join hands and kick ALL the bums out, clean the slate, then elect new people who will actual put public interest over their personal gain. republican and democrat alike.

  7. antitollrepublican said,

    September 4, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    ps… please forgive my typos in the previous post… :)
    and… i wanted to add that the Democrat proposed “Gas Tax Holiday” was a 90 day statewide holiday… at a minimum cost of a $730 million depletion from our yearly road/transportation gas tax revenue.

  8. wcnews said,

    September 4, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    If you want to blame the Democrats, that’s fine. Barrientos, Dukes are and Trey Martinez-Fisher – you’re correct the gas tax holiday was bunk- are not the one’s that came up with the TTC and the toll every road in Texas plan though. No matter which committee, or subcommittee, Barrientos and Dukes were on the legislation still must pass both houses (controlled by the GOP) and be signed by a Republican governor. BTW, GOP took control of state senate in 1996, house in 2003.

    Yes Gov. is weak, but as the past session proved, he/she can veto. Bush, and his presidential aspirations, would have never allowed a tax increase. The Democrats in Texas since losing the gov.’s mansion have not had a veto proof majority that could have raised taxes in Texas.

    We can go back and forth forever regarding who we is ultimately responsible. You won’t change my mind, and I doubt I’ll change yours. Any Democrat that continues to go along with the toll everything mentality deserves just as much, if not more derision, then the Republicans do.

    My point is that this whole problem was caused by a mentality, all the way back to “voodoo economics”, that we can have everything we want and we don’t have to pay for it. Not only do our taxes not have to be raised, they can actually be lowered and we can still have everything we want. Voter’s are as much to blame for buying the line and the politicians are for selling it.

    I’ll concede your point, somewhat, on coming together. But the beliefs that brought about the policies that have gotten us into this mess must be shown to be false. Without the proper historical context many of these issues are not fully understood. This cannot be put off on just Rick Perry. He’s the result, it’s all that came before him that’s the cause.

    I’m A Democrat, always have been, always will be. And while some Democrats are complicit in the toll schemes, and deserve to go, it’s causes are from an anti-government agenda that can trace it’s roots back to conservative movement.

  9. antitollrepublican said,

    September 4, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    my mistake on the “GOP took control of state senate in 1996, house in 2003″…
    i was thinking the republicans didn’t win control of both houses until 2002 elections(ie. total control of congess)…. and totally misworded that thought.
    you are correct that the democrats lost the texas senate majority in 1996…. but that was after they had control of the senate for 124 years straight. i doubt all these transportation problems developed since 1996.
    i’ve lived/driven in austin since 1979, and the same transit problems have been around at least since then… always caused by misappropriation/misuse of the taxes gathered – by whatever politicians were in charge.

    please note that i don’t “want to blame the Democrats” as you stated… i want to blame the culprit toll lobby quorum, which encompasses both parties. i just hate seeing someone else lay the dirt at one doorstep when in truth it soils two front porches.

    while i agree that the democrats “have not had a veto proof majority that could have raised taxes in Texas”…. how would they know… since they haven’t tried any harder than the republicans at doing so?…and in fact, some (along with their republican counterparts) have lead the nazistic march up and down the toll path.
    i understand the concept of “voodoo economics”, and willingly admit that many republican politicians are guilty of practicing this black magic. i’m also not so nieve as to think that democrats are not just as guilty of pulling the same wabbit out of their hats. unfortunately…that is a side effect of career politicians…regardless of whether they have a R or a D beside their name.
    while i am a republican (a reformed democrat since the late 1970’s ) i can’t say i have always voted or always will vote republican (i’ve been know recently to vote liberatarian on select tickets). i try to vote for what the candidate stands for…not the party.

    i agree totally with this paragraph of yours…
    “My point is that this whole problem was caused by a mentality, all the way back to “voodoo economics”, that we can have everything we want and we don’t have to pay for it. Not only do our taxes not have to be raised, they can actually be lowered and we can still have everything we want. Voter’s are as much to blame for buying the line and the politicians are for selling it.”

    very true
    oh, and thanks for a good lively debate…

  10. Eye on Williamson » Tolls, Democrats And Republicans said,

    September 6, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    [...] had a great back and forth regarding tolls, Democrats and Republicans in the comments to this post, Will TxDOT’ Plan To Toll Interstates Be Tipping Point? As the reader will see, while EOW believes this is primarily a Republican created problem, [...]

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