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Consistent. Principled. Action.

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

I recommend a Transportation Contract with Texas

On Monday in Commissioners Court, we will discuss the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) legislative agenda that will request authority from the State Legislature to toll seven highways in the DFW region. Tolling cannot be done without this authority. I believe that we should advocate for true transportation funding reform, not to add more tolls to our region.

Several state-wide candidates from both parties campaigned this year against adding more tolls. Legislators are discussing how to reprioritize the state budget to move back toward a more historic percentage dedicated to transportation, as well as ending the diversions from the gas tax. The environment for real transportation funding reform seems to be gaining momentum as we move toward the legislative session in January. We should set our sights high in this positive environment that suggests that real reform may be possible.

We should seek to end the comprehensive development agreement (CDA) tolling era in Texas. Once and for all. Completely.

Don’t send mixed messages. If we believe the state is working to reform transportation funding, then don’t also ask for authority to toll.

We need a Transportation Contract With Texas, modeled after the Contract With America in 1994, detailing specific commitments to build the transportation infrastructure to support our future growth and prosperity.

Great nations of the past grew up around seaports and later, river ports for a reason – they were the great transportation hubs of the day; linking commerce and community. We need to heed these lessons of history because DFW is the largest inland port in America. Coupled with our low tax environment and dynamic economy, everything revolves around transportation to move commerce and community.
However, because the percentage of the state budget dedicated to transportation declined over several decades, our recent history saw the uneven application of tolling across the state because not every road can realistically be tolled. But the past is not necessarily prologue. We can change recent historic if we work together to add our voices to those of our state-wide candidates and local legislators to advocate for the end of the tolling era in Texas once and for all.

The RTC will ask for authority to toll seven highways in our region. We need to speak with one voice to advocate for true transportation funding reform, not just accept as fact that tolling is the only option. A Transportation Contract with Texas represents true reform.

None of the seven roads are in Collin County, but the RTC makes transportation decisions for more people (6.8 Million) than do the departments of transportation in 37 states. By advocating for transportation funding reform, we not only support a return to historic transportation funding, but we also support return to more local control over transportation decisions. One paragraph from a great piece, “I am a patriot. And I love my country. And this country is only healthy insofar as its little pieces are healthy. Lowell, Massachusetts. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Batavia, New York. Red Cloud, Nebraska. Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I saw the distinct identity – the meaning – of my own place fading and that’s why I raised my voice. That’s why hundreds of thousands – millions – of Americans from the Gulfstream waters to the Redwood forests are raising their voices. We refuse to lose our country.” *
We tried local toll agencies. Just one example, the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) is now $9.5 billion in debt, and is being encouraged to take on more projects. We tried state bonds. That debt is $23 billion and will cost $31 billion to retire over several decades. We need to stop piling debt upon debt on our children and grandchildren and reprioritize the state budget. (No, Prop 1 won’t solve the problem.)

With one unified voice, we need to stand athwart history and yell, “Stop”! We can do better. We should do better. For the sake of Texas, we must do better.

Let’s end the tolling era in Texas. Let’s speak with one voice.

Sincerely,
Keith

*Bill Kauffman, Love is the Answer to Empire, The American Conservative

posted by Keith Self on October 25th, 2014 at 4:39 pm


 

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Rick Perry's 2009 State of the State Address, speaking about how Judge Self and his counterparts helped put Collin County's check register online.