Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Government should not be allowed to use taxpayer money in an effort to promote one side of a political issue."

Is TxDOT's ad campaign appropriate?


The Courier (Montgomery County)
Copyright 2007

Texas lawmakers are expected to review the Texas Department of Transportation's multimillion-dollar ad campaign next year.

At issue is whether the state agency is using taxpayer money to educate or coerce the public.

While it would be understandable to use our money for educational or public awareness purposes, government should not be allowed to use taxpayer money in an effort to promote one side of a political issue.

It is estimated that TxDOT will spend $7 million to $9 million on public relations for its Keep Texas Moving campaign. It promotes use and construction of private toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Transportation officials have said the campaign is in response to legislators' demands for the agency to improve its communication with the public regarding the necessity of privately funded toll roads to relieve congestion.

House Speaker Tom Craddick included the campaign on a list of topics the House State Affairs Committee will study leading up to the 2009 legislative session.

Opponents have questioned TxDOT's decision to use tolling to fund new roads, the route and necessity of the proposed superhighway and the state's decision to partner with private companies to run toll roads.

State officials have said toll roads are necessary because of congestion and transportation spending costs outpacing gas tax revenue.

If the public is to be lobbied for support of these projects, TxDOT should leave the financial responsibility up to the private companies that would benefit from toll road contracts and non-government entities that support those projects.

TxDOT has said future projects could be halted because of a predicted deficit of at least $1.8 billion by 2012.

The Appropriations Committee also will review transportation spending over the past five years and study alternatives for funding future transportation projects.

And that scrutiny should start with spending taxpayer money on self-promotion of controversial road projects and the manners in which they are funded.

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