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Perry vetoes bill with toll road curbs


Gary Scharrer, Austin bureau, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

AUSTIN As expected, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a transportation bill Friday, but the likely impact will be negligible as lawmakers continue to work on alternative legislation, including a moratorium on most private toll roads.

"House Bill No. 1892 jeopardizes billions of dollars of infrastructure investment and invites a potentially significant reduction in federal transportation funding," Perry said in his veto message. "Projects important to fast-growth communities would be placed on hold without alternative financing mechanisms to get them constructed. Even more egregiously, the bill serves to break up the state highway system by permitting local control over state assets."

The veto "really has no practical effect because all of us, including the governor, are intent in reaching a solution to this. None of us want to be here in special session," said Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas.

Talk of overriding the veto all but vanished this week when lawmakers crafted another transportation bill with the help of Perry's staff and state transportation officials.

"I do not believe that you'll see an effort to override the veto," Carona said. "I believe we'll see a good faith effort made on the part of both houses of the Legislature (to pass Senate Bill 792)."

Perry expressed gratitude that legislators are working with him and said he's looking forward to the new bill "without delay."

The Senate approved the legislation Monday and the House voted 143-2 for the measure Thursday, but added 20 amendments, which Senate leaders want to discuss with the House as part of a final bill.

"We need to understand what the House was trying to accomplish," said Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, author of SB 792. "This has been an issue that both chambers have been very passionate about."

Senate and House leaders expect to have a final transportation bill early next week.

Anti-toll road groups described themselves as lukewarm to the legislation.

"We will have achieved a private toll moratorium on (U.S.)281/(Loop)1604 and the Trans-Texas Corridor that no one thought possible only five months ago," said Terri Hall, of the San Antonio Toll Party. "We killed $106 billion total in private toll deals currently on the table that would have given a foreign company access to our wallets for 50-plus years."



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