Monday, June 02, 2008

"North Texas wants its $3.1 billion, plus interest."

Now will do


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2008

North Texas wants its $3.1 billion, plus interest.

Not only is that a reasonable demand -- it's what state leaders promised. So give us our money, Austin.

The cash is what the North Texas Tollway Authority has paid for the right to build the Texas 121 toll road north of Grapevine and to collect revenue on that road for decades to come. Right now, the state has the money, and it's earning interest in the range of $302,000 to $420,000 a day.

State policy, set by both the Legislature and the Texas Transportation Commission, long has been that the proceeds from this kind of toll road contract should go to the region in which the road is built and should be spent on other roads or air quality projects in that region.

So give us our money, Austin.

In the last legislative session, lawmakers even made that regional distribution of toll road funds mandatory. Senate Bill 792 said that the commission and the Texas Department of Transportation "shall" send that money back to the region it came from -- a change from the previous wording that those entities "may" do so.

The problem is, the Legislature can change any law that it writes. There's plenty of reason to worry that legislators will do just that during next year's session and devote some of this money to some other use. It would be going back on their word, of course, but it could happen.

Does that mean we don't trust the Legislature? Well, draw your own conclusions. We'd just say we prefer local control, and our lawmakers frequently say they're for that.

About 200 North Texas business and political leaders went to Austin on Thursday to tell the commission members that they'd feel a whole lot more comfortable if the $3.1 billion (plus interest) were moved immediately from the state and put under regional control.

Commission members said that they'd do what they could to bring that about. Fine. Give us our money.

Who owes us money?

Deirdre Delisi is the commission's chair. Other commissioners are Ned S. Holmes, Ted Houghton, Bill Meadows and Fred Underwood. To contact them:


Mailing address:

125 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78701

Fax: 512-475-3072

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