Friday, April 25, 2008

"Governor Perry's unwillingness to seek public solutions to public needs is the real abdication of responsibility."


Texas roads: Perry needs to take real responsibility

April 25, 2008

Longview News-journal
Copyright 2008

"It is an abdication of responsibility."

That's what Gov. Rick Perry thinks of the possibility that the Texas Legislature might again stand in the way of his efforts to privatize the construction of toll roads across Texas.

The real problem is Perry's conclusion that the state is unable to perform one of the most basic functions of government since before the invention of the horseless carriage: The construction, maintenance and operation of vital public infrastructure.

The governor's fear of taxes in any form is so visceral that he finds himself unable to conclude that there is any other way to build much needed public highways than to turn the process over to private enterprise.

Perry and his supporters love to pitch the idea by saying it is a way to develop public infrastructure without levying any new taxes.

What they fail to highlight is the fact that somehow at some time the public will be picking up the tab for privately developed highways, only the bill will be higher because the developer will be tacking on a profit margin — probably a very large profit margin.

Those profits will come not only from the tolls that the developers will collect from people using these vital roadways, but also from the franchise the privatization model would grant them on the lucrative land surrounding interchanges. Having that franchise to develop the hotels, restaurants and gas stations that thrive along major interstates is a big plum for potential developers but a sour grape for local business owners along the proposed routes.

A year ago, the Legislature stood up to Perry and reined in his headlong rush to privatize the development of much of his grand Trans-Texas Corridor concept. There are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who can see that the governor's short-sighted ambition to privatize highway development could spell some long-term problems for Texans.

The fact is that our state's development of highways has fallen behind motorists' needs, not only in major metropolitan areas, but along key long-distance travel corridors such as Interstate 35 from San Antonio to the Red River and Interstate 20 from Dallas to the Louisiana border, as well.

The price we pay for not being willing to pay for new highways in the past are congested, often dangerous stretches of road.

Our fear is that the price we pay for Perry's privatization program will be almost as dear.

The governor needs to be told by voters and lawmakers alike that his unwillingness to seek public solutions to public needs is the real abdication of responsibility.

© 2008 The Longview News-Journal:

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