Today Governor Perry used the podium at a TxDOT conference to deliver a verbal assault on the Texas Legislature and every citizen of Texas.
We can certainly agree that the last few years have been challenging times at TxDOT. Finally, TxDOT is in the public eye, and the result so far has been a real poke in the eye to anyone looking.
The heat TxDOT receives today is the direct result of the direction they have been forced to take by two powerful men, Governor Rick Perry and his late best friend Ric Williamson. It is their planning, not TxDOT's, that has people puzzled. It is their insistence that a projected population growth somehow justifies anything they want to do, anywhere they want to do it, using any financial scheme available. It's building roads from where no one lives to where no one works that leaves us puzzled. No matter how many Aggies you put in Kyle Field you still don't need a 1/4-mile wide Trans Texas Corridor in Pecos County.
Yes, companies are moving to Texas in droves, but will they continue to find our state as inviting when the toll cost of driving to work or moving their goods to market skyrockets? Texas is a big state and tolls here will add up to big money in a big hurry.
Perry accuses the legislature of abdicating their responsibility when in fact they are among the few who are acting responsibly.
We believe the Governor's headlong rush to public-private partnerships could lead to disaster. Wall Street firms are just now starting to describe these deals as financially-engineered infrastructure models that should raise great concern. We agree. Does anyone remember the marvelous financial model that led to the rise and fall of Enron?
Today Perry described this private financing as something that you would have thought too good to be true. Then claims, "But it is true." Really? And if Texas is such a powerhouse economy why is it that the only way we can afford to build highways is with one of these private partners?
We have not lost sight of the facts, even though they are hard to find among the something for nothing public-private partnership rhetoric. And when was there ever any honest debate to stifle? When was there any debate?
One thing we know for sure is that market-driven solutions will, by design, produce the highest possible tolls to maximize revenue. A good deal if your on the collection side of these state sanctioned monopolies. Not so good for the travelling public and those who will pay the added cost for goods and services using these maximized toll roads.
Yes, we need to address transportation finance. But in that process the citizens of this state should have a say in what they want and what they are willing to pay for. Somehow we ended up with the Governor dictating what we need and how we'll get it. In the process we completely lost our ability to control the price we will pay for what he is buying. Seems Perry and Peters knows what's best for us. You can call it politics Mr. Perry, but that's how we the citizens have our say. We elected those legislators and we expect them to represent us, and sometimes that means saying no.
We have a lot of needs in this state, better and safer roads are certainly high on the list, but so is education, and a few dozen other items. Rumor has it that our population is booming. It's hard to believe that the only thing all those new Texans will need are toll roads.
Maybe we do need toll roads. If so lets have that discussion, maybe even a vote, and lets be reasonable in the process. How about a return to accountability and transparency in the way we propose projects like the Trans-Texas Corridor?
The Governor's good sound bites will leave a bad taste in our mouths for decades to come. As always the devil is in the details. Details that Perry brushes aside. There is no free lunch and there is certainly no free highway. No matter how you get it built it is the citizens of Texas who will pay the tab. We can pay it though a direct tax we have control of or pay it along with a profit to a private monopoly that we have no control over. In either case we deserve to have a say.
The real innovation that the Governor has proposed is turning our highways into the state's largest and least controllable taxing machine. Ensuring that we, our children, and grand children will be producing revenue for the state and their public-private partners long after Governor Perry has left the stage.