Perry supports half-baked 'moratorium'
May 26, 2007
By LIZ AUSTIN PETERSON
AUSTIN — The House sent Gov. Rick Perry a compromise transportation bill today that freezes most new privately financed toll road projects for two years yet dodges a threatened special legislative session.
House members voted 127-19 to accept the negotiated deal, which was approved by the Senate on Friday. The bill now heads to Perry, whose office worked on the compromise with lawmakers from both chambers.
"Today's action ensures that Texas will continue to have the tools needed to support the states booming population and economic growth," Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody said.
Perry vetoed the first major transportation bill lawmakers sent him, saying it would shut down road construction, kill jobs and prevent access to federal highway money. He threatened to call a special session if the Legislature overrode that veto and worked with members of both chambers to craft a compromise.
The Senate quickly passed the second bill, but the House added several amendments, forcing the appointment of a conference committee to find yet another middle course.
The legislation institutes a moratorium on most new privately developed toll roads. The compromise version includes more exemptions to appease critics, such as Rio Grande Valley officials who feared the ban would hinder development of the Interstate 69 corridor.
The compromise bill also imposes limits on comprehensive development agreements, used in contracts for private-public road building. Additionally, it sets up a process to determine a road's market value and makes it easier for local authorities to take on projects in their areas.
Comprehensive development agreements, or CDAs, are a relatively new tool meant to let the Texas Department of Transportation complete road-building projects more quickly and cheaply by using a single contract for both the design and construction tasks.
Those agreements have attracted the attention of multinational consortiums willing to pay large sums up front for the right to operate roads and pocket the tolls for decades to come.
That has outraged residents and lawmakers who say drivers will become hostages to the private companies, forced to pay increasingly hefty tolls.
The legislation also establishes a task force to evaluate and make recommendations for the next legislative session about private equity contracts and taxpayer protections.
The vetoed transportation bill is HB1892. The later bill is SB792.
© 2007 The Associated Press:
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