Friday, November 17, 2006

The 'Highway Twins' : More of the same?

Ogden, Krusee prepare for legislature


By Daniel K. Lai
Taylor Daily Press
Copyright 2006

With the general election behind them and the 80th Texas legislative session just over the horizon, local lawmakers have started formulating their respective battle plans.

“Almost immediately after the election I had meetings in Taylor to continue discussions on the East Williamson County Higher Education Center,” State Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Dist. 52, said. “It's still in the planning stages. There is an awful lot of people to coordinate in that effort - city governments, school districts, county officials and institutions of higher learning. It's not a cut and dry process.”

Although Monday was the first day for legislators to file bills for the next legislative session, Krusee said he has not filed any yet.

“There are several priorities I will be working to address with this legislature including planning and preparing for growth in the county and establishing a stronger, affordable and reliable source of water for residents,” he said. “The main issue is what the legislature is going to do with the budget surplus; some of it needs to go to education but I think it needs to be used to lower property taxes. That is important. Do we spend it (the surplus) or use it to lower property tax? I'm optimistic the Republican legislators will agree we need to lower property taxes.”

One issue that Krusee said his office has been consistently contacted about is the route of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“I've already said this - the SH 130 corridor has been designated Williamson County's Trans-Texas Corridor,” he said. “It's not going to go through Taylor or Granger or other areas on the eastern side of the county. My office is routinely contacted by people who are concerned and we do our best to inform them on the status of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“In the coming months, I suspect TxDOT will further narrow the proposed path of the corridor around SH-130; an additional toll-road further east will not be built.”

State Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Dist. 5, said he has also heard several questions raised about the TTC and will plan to focus a lot of attention on the project.

“The TTC is not clearly defined in the public's mind,” he said. “There was a lot of discussion about it when I was campaigning and I will look at the issues.”

Of the various issues raised, Ogden said he will focus his attention directly to the three main concerns - tolls, the TxDOT comprehensive development plan for the TTC and the completion of other state roads.

“Once a road has been built and the money from tolls have paid for that road, the tolls should go away,” he said. “I also want to review the TxDOT comprehensive development agreement for the Trans-Texas Corridor to understand if employing a foreign-based company for the job is the best thing in order to make sure we're not making a huge mistake. There will be a lot of attention to the Trans-Texas Corridor.”

However, Ogden said as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee his primary responsibility will be writing the state budget.

“Ninety percent of my time and money will be dedicated on that,” he said. “My responsibility will be to write a balanced, conservative and fair budget for the state.”

In addition, Ogden said he will also focus on “cleaning up” the property tax legislation passed during last summer's special session.

“We have a responsibility to clean it up and eliminate as many of the glitches that we can find,” he said. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us but I am confident we will be successful.”

The 80th Texas State Legislature will convene Jan. 9.

© 2006 Taylor Daily Press: