Perry decries ban on private toll road contracts
U.S. Secretary of Transportation
flies in to
support Perry's toll policies
April 04, 2007
Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday called in backup —
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters — to
urge the Legislature to stop something that key
legislators have already effectively bottled up: a
two-year ban on private toll road leases.
Perry and Peters said the proposed moratorium,
carried in identical bills in both houses and
co-sponsored by more than two-thirds of lawmakers,
would increase traffic congestion and drive away
businesses by delaying highway projects. And they
styled state and federal gas taxes, which have been
frozen at the same rates since the early 1990s, as a
"There had to be a better way, and there is,"
Perry said of his emphasis on toll roads, both those
built and operated by government and those put in
private hands. Perry and Peters appeared together at
an afternoon news conference, and Peters earlier met
with several legislators handling transportation
matters. "My message to (legislators) is, 'Don't
derail your success.' "
The moratorium bills have not made it out of the
transportation committees in each house, and the
chairmen of those panels — Sen. John Carona,
R-Dallas, and Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County
— have shown little enthusiasm for advancing them.
Carona, a critic of Perry's transportation
policy, nonetheless has said that a moratorium is
too large a hammer and that measures short of that
might address the public's concerns about allowing
private companies to run toll roads for 50 years.
Meanwhile, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, a former
supporter of Perry's toll road policies who has
leaped off the bandwagon in a big way, passed out of
the Senate an alternative.
His Senate Bill 1795 would double from $3 billion
to $6 billion what the state could borrow against
the gas tax.
He'd pay for it by stopping $150 million a year
of diversion of gas tax money to the Department of
Public Safety, replacing it with general state tax
and fee revenue.
The Senate vote on Ogden's bill was 30-0.
Ogden, chairman of the budget-writing Finance
Committee, last week persuaded his committee to
approve a rider to SB 1, the budget bill, that would
redirect that $150 million a year to highways.
Ogden, who as then-chairman of the Senate's
transportation panel, carried a 2003 bill that made
possible the Perry toll road push.
This session, he is carrying legislation that
would outlaw private toll road contracts by the
Ogden was unavailable for comment Tuesday.