Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sen. Hutchison hypes toll amendment that is riddled with loopholes


Sen. Hutchison Protects Texas Taxpayers From Double Taxation on Existing Highways

Senate Passes Hutchison Amendment to Ban Tolling Existing Highways in Texas for One Year

September 11, 2007

Contact: Geoff Embler or Matt Mackowiak
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senate
Copyright 2007

WASHINGTON -- Texas’ senior Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R–TX) today passed an amendment to H. R. 3074, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, that protects Texas taxpayers by placing a one-year moratorium on tolling existing highways in Texas. The FY 2008 THUD bill, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 88-7, would be effective through September 30, 2008. The Senate version will now need to be reconciled with the House-passed bill in a conference.

“Today we protected Texas taxpayers from paying twice for a highway,” Sen. Hutchison said. “I will continue pushing for a permanent prohibition of tolling existing highways.”

If enacted, Sen. Hutchison will have protected Texas for one year, but she is committed to addressing this issue on a more comprehensive basis in the 2009 Highway Reauthorization bill. Sen. Hutchison’s amendment preserves the Texas State Legislature’s authority over this issue in Texas.

During the 80th session of the Texas Legislature the state House and Senate approved a measure that would place a two-year moratorium on building toll roads in Texas.

“Sen. Hutchison is a hero to every Texas driver,” State Sen. and former Texas Transportation Commissioner Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) said. “Her amendment is the right thing to do and I strongly support her position.”

Last week Sen. Hutchison filed S. 2019, a bill to prohibit the tolling of interstate highways that have used federal funds in their construction, and the next day four Members of Congress filed companion legislation, H.R. 3510. The House bill was filed by Reps. John Peterson (R–PA), Phil English (R–PA), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX) and Ciro Rodriguez (D–TX). Sen. John Cornyn (R–TX) cosponsored Sen. Hutchison’s bill.

Efforts to toll newly constructed lanes or new highways would not be prohibited in Sen. Hutchison’s amendment that passed the Senate, or in S. 2019 or H.R. 3510.

“I’ve long believed that if local communities and the state want to come together and build a toll road, they should be able to do it,” Sen. Hutchison said.

Earlier this year the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) declared they will lobby Congress to allow for the “buy back” of existing federal highways in Texas for the purpose of tolling. In February TxDOT released their legislative agenda in a report called “Forward Momentum,” which seeks changes in federal law that would allow such buybacks for the purpose of tolling interstate highways, pending approval by local governments.

“I deeply thank Sen. Hutchison for being a voice of reason on this issue,” State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) said. “Asking Texans to pay twice for the same road violates the trust that should exist between people and government.”

Sen. Hutchison passed a similar amendment as part of the 2005 Highway Bill, which passed the Senate but was stripped in conference by the House of Representatives.

“The purpose of having an interstate system is so that we could have seamless and free transportation into every State of our Union,” Sen. Hutchison said.

Sen. Hutchison is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has jurisdiction over all of the Appropriations bills, including THUD.

© 2007 Kay Bailey Hutchison, United States Senator Sentor:

Related link: Sen Hutchison fails to protect Texas taxpayers from double taxation

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE