Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The 'Faith-Based' Moratorium

Toll road bill still awaits Perry signature

Legislators confident he'll OK measure to limit private deals

May 29, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN – Lawmakers broke camp Monday, taking it on faith that Gov. Rick Perry won't slam the brakes on a compromise toll road bill.

Monday's session finale came and went without Mr. Perry signing the bill, which imposes a partial two-year freeze on private toll road deals.

Lawmakers did not try to override his veto on their initial bill to overhaul the state's toll policies.

Many involved in the contentious toll road debate were expecting Mr. Perry to approve the bill by now because his office was closely involved in hammering out the compromise.

Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody said the governor is still sorting through a backlog of legislation. "This bill is no exception to that," she said.

It would give local agencies first dibs on toll projects, limit contracts to 50 years and create a process to gauge a project's market value.

The centerpiece: a two-year moratorium on private toll contracts. North Texas projects would be spared from the ban.

Earlier, the Legislature seemed poised to override Mr. Perry's veto of an earlier toll road bill. Then the Republican governor threatened to call a special session, sending both sides into negotiations.

"We have all given one another our word, and I know the governor's word is good," said Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, the Senate transportation committee chairman. "I feel very comfortable."

If Mr. Perry does not sign the bill by mid-June, it automatically becomes law.

Monday, a few dozen opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor who gathered at the Capitol said it is unlikely Mr. Perry would reject the compromise.

"The backlash of the [next] Legislature would just be incredible," said David Stall, co-founder of CorridorWatch, a grass-roots group fighting against the corridor initiative.


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