Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The 'Fix' is in--Again.

Governor wants roads bill changed before end of session

May 9, 2007

The Associated Press
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry doesn't like a transportation bill Texas lawmakers sent him and threatened Wednesday to call them back to address the issue if no solution is reached before the legislative session ends May 28.

"The good news is, there's still time to fix it .... if not, I have no other option as the leader of this state than to bring the Legislature back until we address these issues and we get Texas back to where it can have a vibrant transportation infrastructure," Perry said.

Though a two-year moratorium on private toll road contracts is a major part of the bill and has drawn the most attention, that's not Perry's main objection to the legislation, he said.

"This isn't about the moratorium. I'll sign the moratorium bill tomorrow," he said, referring to a separate toll-road moratorium piece of legislation still pending.

However, Perry has urged lawmakers throughout this legislative session not to pass a toll-road moratorium. Toll roads are a key part of the Perry-proposed Trans Texas Corridor, a massive highway project that's partly under development.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said the sweeping transportation legislation sent to the governor would allow numerous local communities to place liens on Texas rights of way, meaning bonds couldn't be issued for building roads there. He said the measure also puts regional projects in jeopardy and cuts some local governments out of funding.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area would be particularly hard hit, according to Perry.

The proposal also tightens controls on comprehensive development agreements, used in contracts for private-public road-building, reducing their maximum duration from 70 years to 40 years and allowing the state to buy back a project.

That provision would stop part of the Trans Texas Corridor proposed to run from South Texas north through East Texas, known as TTC-69, because comprehensive development agreements are to be used, Black said.

Part of the Trans Texas Corridor proposed to run parallel to Interstate 35 wouldn't be jeopardized because that development agreement has already been let, Black said.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said many members of the Senate feel very strongly about the maximum duration and buyback provisions. But he said the bill's Senate sponsors have been negotiating with Perry's office and making progress toward a compromise.

"I can't help but believe that we're going to be able to reach an agreement," Dewhurst said.

Perry has the power to call lawmakers into a 30-day special session on subjects he chooses. He has called previous special sessions on school funding and congressional redistricting.

He discussed his concerns about the road bill Wednesday with Dewhurst, who presides in the Senate, and House Speaker Tom Craddick, both fellow Republicans.

The bill from the GOP-controlled Legislature was a compilation from numerous lawmakers as it made its way through the Capitol.

The House put the final legislative stamp of approval on the bill a week ago, approving the measure 139-1 to send to Perry. The dissenting vote came from Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, a Perry ally on toll roads and chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Perry had said previously he would seriously consider vetoing the bill because he said it shuts down road construction, kills jobs and prevents access to federally highway money.


The transportation bill is HB 1892.


Associated Press writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.

© 2007 Houston Chronicle:

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