TxDOT and beyond…A failure of leadership

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Privatization, Road Issues, Transportation, Uncategorized at 9:04 am by wcnews

EOW purposefully didn’t make a judgment on HB 300 as it passed the House on Friday morning because we needed time to ruminate over exactly what happened.

First, a quick note. I’d like to thank Jenny Hoff for pointing out Ted Delisi’s conflict, this time, before discussing transportation issues with him this past Sunday:

Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined me to talk about the latest issues the lege has been dealing with. Since Delisi’s wife is chairwoman of the Transportation commission - we announced that conflict of interest before delving into the fate of TxDOT.

Now to TxDOT. I think Burka’s take is largely on point, that much pent up legislator frustration was taken out on TxDOT. It was the first time that legislators have had a chance to take some “free swings” at TxDOT since the TTC and toll roads came to dominate how we finance transportation infrastructure in Texas.

What’s wrong with Burka’s take is the words Rick Perry, Ric Williamson, neglect, and arrogance are nowhere to be found. When faced with dwindling funding to pay for roads in Texas, Perry and Williamson, decided to go with expensive toll taxes for corporate profits, instead of raising the gas tax a few pennies - Perry took Grover’s pledge let’s not forget and that took precedence over the needs of Texans.

All of this is to say that right now TxDOT’s policy, and transportation policy as a whole, are set by the Governor of Texas. And that policy cannot be changed without changing the governor. Whether an elected commissioner, and 14 regional elected commissioners is the answer, well….EOW is not sold on that plan. The idea of one commissioner, was to have one person accountable. This, it seems would allow there to be many people to blame, once again.

What really is occurring is that the legislature is trying to wrest control of transportation policy away from the governor, but they may be doing it in a counter-productive way. More oversight and accountability of TxDOT is a must, but there’s no assurance the plan that left the house will insure that. And, as Burka said in the add-on to his post, the most important issue facing Texas regarding transportation (EOW’s words) wasn’t even dealt with and likely won’t be dealt with this session. How are we going to pay for transportation in the future?

The stalemate on this is political. The way to break it is to raise motor fuels taxes, issue bonds based on the revenue, and index the tax to inflation, with a cap on the increase. The governor could break the impasse by coming out for a gasoline tax increase. He’s not going to do it. The governor and the agency continue to press for comprehensive development agreements for toll roads as the funding solution. The Legislature and the public hate the idea of privatizing highways. They are not going to give in to the pressure for more toll roads, especially if it means privatization.

How does an elected transportation commissioner and 14 locally elected commissioners go about raising the gas tax? They can’t. They have to get the legislature to pass a bill and the governor to sign it. That puts us right back to where we are right now. No new money coming in, and a governor and a legislature trying to come up with a scheme to finance roads that isn’t a “tax”. It’s a failure of leadership that Texas and TxDOT have both been suffering from for some time. At this point nothing has been done to change that.

See ACRE blogs take on, What killing the TTC means, and what Texas TURF has to say, Victory #1 comes with a sting.

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