"My concern is that...TxDOT [has] exceeded the proper role of state government and, potentially, their legal authority provided by state law."
Nov. 3, 2007
The Associated Press
AUSTIN — Two state lawmakers are requesting formal inquiries into whether the Texas Department of Transportation is improperly spending money on advertising.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, question whether an estimated $7 million to $9 million TxDOT is spending on its "Keep Texas Moving" campaign is a proper use of resources. The lawmakers have asked Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick look into the matter.
Paxton said he is concerned that the transportation department is spending the money to argue its case before the public in response to lawmakers' questions about projects such as tollways and the Trans-Texas Corridor.
"We are potentially curtailing their ability to do tollways and maybe push forward the Trans-Texas Corridor," Paxton said. "It appears that now they are trying to lobby the public to be favorable towards these particular issues, and I'm not sure that's a really good use of taxpayer money."
A TxDOT spokesman said the advertising campaign is legal and done in response to demands from lawmakers and the public for more information.
"We will not solve the transportation challenges facing Texas without public involvement and public input," spokesman Randall Dillard said.
Patrick said he is worried TxDOT has overstepped its role by lobbying for public support.
"My concern is that Texas agencies, including TxDOT, have exceeded the proper role of state government and, potentially, their legal authority provided by state law," Patrick wrote in a letter to Dewhurst.
For fiscal year 2008, state agencies are expected to spend about $100 million for advertising, publications and promotional items, according to the state comptroller's office. All state agencies together spent $97.8 million in 2006 and $93.3 million in 2007.
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