It’s Not The Size Of The Shorfall, It’s How It’s Made Up That Matters

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:26 pm by wcnews

Now from Ben’s headline, Texas’ tolls too low, new audit says, an “independent” audit commissioned by TxDOT supposedly confirms everything TxDOT’s been saying for years - toll roads are the answer to all our problems. But the point is not that we have a transportation funding shortfall due to neglect by our state leaders, there’s little, if any, debate about that. The point is, what is the best way to make up that shortfall.

First we’re told that the report says that tolls are too low.

Moreover, the audit by Dye Management Group Inc., said that, in general, toll rates on Texas turnpikes are too low, set simply to cover costs rather than generate surplus revenue, and should be raised.

Well that’s true. If all we’re going to use to fund our transportation is toll roads than tolls are going to have to be really high. Then we’re are told that we have a big transportation funding shortfall. Again no news there. Remember the cause is lack of leadership/neglect.

Response to the agency’s solicitation for auditors was light. Dye, based in Bellevue, Wash., and founded in 1990, was the only company to bid on the transportation funding audit.

The agency and its leaders, particularly Williamson, the Texas Transportation Commission chairman, are coming off a rough few months during which lawmakers questioned the aggressive turn toward the private sector for tollways.

The agency, based on its 2004 estimates, had said that the state would be $86 billion short of what it needs for transportation projects between now and 2030 and that private capital is critical to closing that gap.

A private report released last fall indicated that much of the shortfall could be closed with an increase in the gasoline tax, but the Legislature did not seriously consider raising the 20-cents-a-gallon levy.

Lawmakers, particularly those from Dallas and Houston, made it clear that they — and their constituents — would prefer that government, not the private sector, run whatever tollways are deemed necessary.

Dye’s report, which does not take into account legislation passed in the spring that places minor limits on private toll roads, estimated that gasoline taxes over the next generation will raise $15 billion less than the agency’s 2004 estimate showed. Even with $30 billion in tollway revenue, $5 billion of that from private tollway leases, the audit put total revenue through 2030 at $117 billion.

That is $71 billion less than what the agency estimates is needed.

Williamson and his commission colleagues clearly relished what the audit had to say.

“I feel real bad about people who spoke out of ignorance over the last six months,” Williamson said.

It’s funny how this draft report is taken as gospel by Mr. Williamson and how the one from last year was not not taken serioulsy. How serious TxDOT takes a report, it seems, depends on which side of the toll road debate it comes down on.

Not matter the size of the shortfall we all know we’re in a large hole when it comes to our long term transportation funding, that’s obvious. The question is, and has been, through this whole thing, what is the best way to make up that deficit? Corporate toll roads, plain old toll roads, raise and index the gas tax, or some combination of them all. EOW thinks the gas tax option is the best way to do this. This audit does nothing to change that, despite Mr. Williamson’s ignorant snide comment.

DMN has more of the same here.

1 Comment »

  1. Eye on Williamson » TxDOT’s Sunset Review Kick-Off Party & Media Blitz said,

    July 20, 2007 at 11:18 am

    […] I’ll refer you back to EOW’s earlier post on the “independent” audit, It’s Not The Size Of The Shorfall, It’s How It’s Made Up That Matters. No matter how we want to slice it, the ultimate question is, How do Texans want to pay to make up […]

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