Transportation… pissing into the wind

While there’s so much going on with regard to education funding and Medicaid, transportation is receiving very little attention from the outside.

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.

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.

Here at McBlogger we’ve been discussing transportation funding since 2006 . In that time, Texas debt has skyrocketed as we’ve issued bond after bond to build and maintain roads without ever looking at the revenue equation. The solution is not more tolls as those projects have clearly underperformed, the solution is revenue that’s raised and spent broadly to improve the entire state. It’s absolutely essential to our continued growth and economic vitality.

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