Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, the top recipient of TTC contractor contributions, praises TxDOT and promises billions more

Dewhurst praises TxDOT's improvements

Lieutenant governor also says he wants to boost budget by billions

Top Recipients of TTC-Contractor Contributions

Recipient Name
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst
Governor Rick Perry
Attorney General Greg Abbott
Comptroller Susan Combs
Senator Robert Nichols*
Supreme Court Justice Don Willett
Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth A. Jones
Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson
Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson
Senator John Carona*
Senator Tommy Williams*
Supreme Court Justice Jesse Wainwright
House Speaker Tom Craddick
Senator Judith Zaffirini
Ex-Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams
Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister
Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht
Senator Jeff Wentworth*
*Sits on Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. Carona.
Note: Contributions for TTC-35 contractors cover July 2003 – July 2008.
Contributions for TTC-69 contractors cover January 2006 – July 2008.


The Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2009

AUSTIN — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst praised the Texas Department of Transportation on Wednesday for making the kinds of improvements legislators have asked for, and said he hoped to boost the agency's annual budget to $10 billion in the next three years.

Dewhurst's comments, which closed TxDOT's annual Texas Transportation Forum, come as the agency faces sunset review by a skeptical Texas Legislature.

Last month, the Legislature's Sunset Advisory Commission called TxDOT "a mess" and said the state should keep a tighter rein on the agency, perhaps even trimming some of its duties. Earlier this week, TxDOT announced it has withdrawn plans for the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor, saying it would change the name of the program and concentrate on some of the individual road projects that had been absorbed in the TTC plan.

"I've seen some changes and progress in TxDOT, and I compliment the agency and compliment the leadership," Dewhurst said. "I really want to help this agency move forward, and I think you've made a lot of progress, and I want to put the differences between us in the past."

For example, Dewhurst said he asked TxDOT leaders early last year to provide him with future priority projects that would help alleviate congestion and handle the expected growth in Texas drivers.

In August, he said, he was provided with a list from each of the agency's 25 districts, not exactly what he had in mind. But by the end of the year, Dewhurst said, he was given specific project figures, which "were a little higher than I wanted to see but they're probably doable. I'm optimistic."

Dewhurst added afterward that he also would like to see TxDOT's annual budget increased to about $10 billion in the next three years from its current $8.4 billion. He added, though, that current revenue estimates should be more clear in about a month.

"We will provide enough funding to TxDOT to maximize construction over the next three years," he told reporters.

State leaders have made clear that TxDOT must become more transparent in its operations, said Amadeo Saenz Jr., the agency's executive director.

Christopher Lippincott, a TxDOT spokesman, said the agency has made changes as a result of recommendations made by a state sunset committee.

One, he said, was the committee's urging that TxDOT provide more information about ongoing projects, which now are available on the agency's Web site.

"There are a lot of things we're trying to do, communicating with legislative leadership and local transportation leaders to help them understand what we're doing and how we're doing it," he said. "Our hope is that people will stay engaged and keep asking questions and hold us to a higher standard, still."

© 2009 The Houston

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