Sen. Nichols: "Today the Legislature sent a clear message: We will not sell our transportation system at bargain-basement prices."
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
By JAKE BATSELL
The Dallas Morning News
A two-year freeze on private toll-road contracts is on its way to Gov. Rick Perry's desk.
House members voted 139-1 today to accept Senate amendments to a bill that would halt new private-sector toll-road deals for two years. But the complex bill exempts most major North Texas toll projects already in the works.
Both chambers overwhelmingly passed the bill in an effort to rein in the state's controversial 50-year deals with private companies to build and run certain toll roads. Senators approved the bill 30-1 on Monday after adding a late amendment.
"Today the Legislature sent a clear message: We will not sell our transportation system at bargain-basement prices," said Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, a former state transportation commissioner and an ardent critic of the state's recent toll-road policies.
Mr. Perry, who has championed private toll roads as a solution to the state's growing traffic congestion, now has 10 days to consider a veto. Last week, he released a statement strongly hinting that he would wield his veto power.
"We cannot have public policy in this state that shuts down road construction, kills jobs, harms air quality, prevents access to federal highway dollars and creates an environment within local government that is ripe for political corruption," Mr. Perry said.
With such strong majorities in favor of a moratorium, lawmakers would be able to override Mr. Perry's veto if they chose to, something that hasn't happened to a Texas governor in decades.
© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co
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