Saturday, July 19, 2008

"There should be a way to prevent the TxDOT commission from being the private political playpen for Gov. Perry, or any other governor."

Time for a TxDOT reform

July 19, 2008

Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2008

In an effort to eliminate waste, duplication and inefficiency in Texas government, lawmakers created the Sunset Advisory Commission in 1977.

The 12-member commission is a legislative body that puts every Texas agency under the microscope every 12 years.

This year, it is the Texas Department of Transportation’s turn on the Sunset commission’s hot seat. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

It’s possible that TxDOT and its five-member panel appointed by the governor has managed to aggravate, in one way or the other, every Texas lawmaker plus a good proportion of the state’s population over the past several years.

TxDOT officials somehow managed to make a $1 billion accounting error that caused a huge falloff in road funds needed to build and maintain the state’s road system to accommodate increased traffic demands.

The agency also launched a multimillion-dollar public awareness campaign to sell its transportation approach, “Keep Texas Moving,” that appeared to be a sales pitch for a controversial toll-road project.

The state auditor’s office blasted TxDOT for hiding lobbying expenses for the controversial 4,000-mile Trans-Texas Corridor proposal concept behind legitimate expenses.

Another reason the Sunset commission needs to closely review TxDOT’s operation is the way the governor’s hand-picked commissioners have attempted to push through Perry’s concept of privately run toll roads without the approval of Texas lawmakers or the public.

Critics charge that Perry has used his politically appointed commissioners to run TxDOT out of the governor’s office.

Certainly, more transparency and accountability are required at TxDOT. There also should be a way to prevent the TxDOT commission from being the private political playpen for Gov. Perry, or any other governor, especially those governors who launch projects and concepts without consulting the Legislature or the public.

Whether the commissioners continue to be appointed by the governor, or elected by the voters or selected for appointment by a bipartisan qualifications commission, reforms are called for at TxDOT.

© 2008, The Waco Tribune-Herald:

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