By Sheri Edwards, March 28, 2013
On Friday, March 8, 2013, Gov. Rick Perry today released the following statement regarding Senate Bill 1632 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, House Bill 3665 by Rep. Drew Darby, and House Bill 3363 by Rep. Bill Callegari:
“These members have answered the call to address our long-term infrastructure needs with innovative, bold and fiscally responsible options. Along with using the Rainy Day Fund investment for sound infrastructure projects, I have also called for an end to diversions from the State Highway Fund. These changes will help ensure traffic continues to flow in Texas for generations to come.”
I have to wonder where Governor Perry’s priorities lie, because it certainly isn’t with our taxpayers (or future generations of taxpayers). I have gone to THE source (in my humble opinion), TexasTurf.org to see what these bills touted by Governor Perry as the solution to our road-funding problems. Let’s take these bills from TexasTurf’s perspective.
HB3665 / SB1632 (Darby / Hinojosa) — Deposits our federal highway funds (which should be going to build free roads) into the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) to be used to guarantee local toll debt. The State will issue loans and provide credit assistance/ enhancements for toxic local toll debt. It would fund mass transit and multi-modal projects as well. The public entity they loan the money to can use ANY tax or levy any NEW tax available to them to pay back the loan from the SIB. So taxpayers will not only repay their own tax money with interest through tolls, they’ll have their local taxes sucked into paying the loan and possibly have a local tax increase to pay back the loan of our own tax money! We the taxpayers are still on the hook for all this debt and if the SIB has to back these local toll loans, that means the toll projects are not toll viable roads that can be paid for with the users of the road. So this whole SIB idea is a scheme to enter into risky loans to guarantee the debt that the private sector wouldn’t touch.
HB 3363 (Callegari) — This bill would create a whole new class of bonds, called century bonds, with a pay off date of 100 years! This is literally INSANE to borrow money for roads and owe the money with heaps of interest over a CENTURY, well beyond the useful life of these roads. This will en debt GENERATIONS of Texans for today’s roads, simply because our lawmakers REFUSE to dedicate the taxes we already pay to roads. This borrow and spend debt bomb is taking Texans off a fiscal cliff. This insanity has got to stop! We need to kill this bill!
Here are some Outrageous Facts, provided by TexasTurf.org.
- The State of Texas leads the nation in road debt! You certainly don’t see Governor Perry touting that. In less than ten years, we have accumulated $31 Billion in principal and interest.
- 47% of the gas tax that you already pay goes to non-road uses
- Roads 100% paid for with tax money are opening as toll roads, and in many instances the rates are set by a private company. This sounds like double taxation and taxation without representation to me!
- Where there’s not enough projected traffic to pay for a toll project, taxpayer money is used to subsidize it!
There are some good bills that have been filed. For a complete list please go to Good, Bad & Ugly Bill List at TexasTurf.org.
Good Funding Bills:
HJR22 / HJR 29 / HJR 95 / HB1627 / HJR 108 / HB2278 / SJR 31 / SJR 25 / SB309 / SB1140 / SJR 46 – To end some or all of the gas tax diversions, and others to dedicate tire sales to roads.
HB514 / HB479 / HB2904 / HB2492 / HB782 / HJR 68 / SB287 / SJR 20 – Dedicates existing vehicles sales tax we already pay to roads. This is a robust, long-term realiable source of revenue TxDOT needs to comply with federal rules that requires the agency to show how its projects will be funded 25 years out. The free market sets the price of a car and it goes up on its own with inflation. Best source to replace the declining gas tax revenue without tax hikes.
HB1485 / SB678 – To opt-out of the federal highway program in Texas’ money back in a block grant. Estimated to reap $1 Billion/year back to our state.
Good Government/Truth in Taxation
HB1054 / SB1029 – Ensures that if a toll project involves an existing freeway, that existing freeway main lanes cannot be converted into toll lanes and/or downgraded to access/frontage roads. Existing free main lanes would stay free, which would prevent us from paying for the same road twice.
SB507 — Puts vital public protections on public private partnerships like a public vote, competitive bidding, and more transparency.
SB1253 — Prohibits the manipulation of/downgrading of speed limits on free roads adjacent to tollways, which slow free routs in order to incentivize use of tollways.
HB3682 — Would use Rainy Day Fund to buy back SH130 segments 5 & 6 from Spanish company, Cintra — the first foreign-owned toll road. The smartest thing we can do is return Texas highways to the PEOPLE!
We need to let our representatives know that we will hold them accountable. We must stop paying for our roads with debt, and they must truly balance our budget as is constitutionally mandated. We cannot afford to kick the can down the road any longer. If we do not get this under control, how long will it be before we have all of California’s problems?
Please call or write your Texas House Representative, Senator, Governor and Lt. Governor. If they don’t hear from you, then the only perspective they are hearing are that of lobbyists. Get involved — your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are counting on you!
For further reading, please see CLTP Stands w/ TX Legislature’s TEA Party Causus Advisory Committee! No gas tax increase & stop diversions!