Monday, August 21, 2006
Perry's road revolution could take electoral toll
Governor emphasis on tollways, private road-builders has generated urban and rural unrest
By Ben WearAMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFFSunday, August 20, 2006
An earlier version of this story contained an error. Go to our Corrections page for a full explanation.
Rick Perry's political problem with transportation, to the extent that he has one, may be that he's trying to douse a fire in 2006 that won't ignite for another 10 to 20 years.
Duane A. LavertyWACO TRIBUNE HERALD
Gubernatorial rival Carole Keeton Strayhorn, speaking last month in Waco at a public hearing on Trans-Texas Corridor-35, doesn't mince words on the issue: 'I will not as governor support a toll road.'
As governor, Rick Perry is shifting how Texas pays for new roads: not with taxes but with tolls and private road operators. 'If someone has a better idea . . . please lay out that plan,' he says.
His critics say, no, the problem is that Perry wants to charge us for the water.
What isn't in dispute is that the Republican governor and his appointees over the past six years have turned Texas transportation on its head, moving the state from financing public roads solely with taxes to a system that would be heavily dependent on tolls and private road operators.
What has this revolution in transportation policy earned Perry, who faces re-election this fall? Well, precious few plaudits from the general public, although the business community and the road construction industry have been solidly in his corner.
His policies have birthed several grass-roots groups committed to snuffing out Perry's toll plans and, while they're at it, his political career. The nascent Trans-Texas Corridor twin to Interstate 35, and the prospect that thousands of acres would have to be purchased to build it, have taken an undetermined chunk out of Perry's natural base of support in agricultural Texas.
And the Perry transportation agenda has handed his three principal challengers a hefty political club to wield as they campaign for his job.
"That's why you don't see a lot of big changes in public policy, because they are risky," said Robert Poole, director of transportation studies for the California-based Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank. "It may be that the general public isn't yet persuaded that this is a crisis. In day-to-day, average-person political terms, traffic congestion may not be bad enough yet."
Perry, with his famously well-coiffed look and perfectly tailored suits, surely doesn't look the part of a revolutionary, and he rejects that characterization. But he acknowledges that transportation is the area where he made the most "wide-sweeping" changes.
Perry declared the gasoline tax a lame duck, dismissing talk of raising it. Perry and his allies decreed that all new road projects would be evaluated for tolls. They contemplated slapping tolls on existing roads, then backed off after a public outcry.
Perry in early 2002 outlined what seemed to be a pie-in-the-sky plan for 4,000 miles of rural toll roads called the Trans-Texas Corridor. After hearing people scoff for more than two years, Perry introduced some Spaniards who said they'd spend $7.2 billion on the first 300-mile piece, including a $1.2 billion payment to the state. And Perry's Department of Transportation declared Texas "open for business," inviting private companies — foreign or domestic — to privately finance and operate the next generation of Texas expressways and railroads.
Read the complete article at: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/08/20transgov.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=52
Terry's Comment: If everyone hasn't figured it out already, the above is another representative article on the Republican Party stance and their "P over P" heritage. "P over P" = Profit over People.
Terry D Barhorst Sr.
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