Friday, July 27, 2007

Sen. Kevin Eltife calls Trans-Texas Corridor concept "insanity."

Blunt words: Eltife shows little patience for misguided leaders

July 26, 2007

The Longview News Journal
Copyright 2007

State Sen. Kevin Eltife pulled no punches Tuesday when discussing Gov. Rick Perry's Trans Texas Corridor initiative — he called the concept "insanity."

Why is our region's senator so acerbic when it comes to the idea of allowing private development of toll roads to replace the state's road-building responsibilities?

That's easy: He's right and officials like him need to stir the public to stand with them in their efforts to slow down the governor's privatized steam roller.

The math is simple, Eltife told people attending the Longview Partnership Govermental Affairs luncheon Tuesday: A big Spanish company is only interested in building mega-toll roads in Texas because it sees a pot of gold at the end of the highway.

Texas lawmakers almost closed the door on Perry's toll road plans, but in the end had to leave some room for the prospect of the Trans Texas project that has been attacked from many quarters, most vociferously by people concerned about the wide swaths of private land that would be needed to see the project through to fruition.

As Eltife said, Texas is a wealthy state with many resources. If it needs a project of the magnitude that Perry has been pushing, the state can afford to issue the bonds and build the project itself. By doing so, the state could retain the revenues from the tolls to help complete other highway projects or it could simply levy lower tolls because it does not need to make a profit like a private operator would.

On a related matter, Eltife said it also is time for state officials to take a serious look at the gas tax, saying the fear of raising it has left the state's leaders short on the funds to meet our growing state's highway needs.

The Tyler Republican said that people on both sides of the political aisle are simply too afraid of the phrase "tax increase" to seriously consider what needs to be done for Texas roads.

Eltife's speech on Tuesday and his responses to audience questions continued to reflect the fact that his approach to government is one that puts pragmatism way ahead of ideology.

Talk like that isn't likely to win him any friends in Austin, but that's just fine with him and with us as long as he puts the interests of his district ahead of politics, much as he's done during his first few years in the Senate.

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