Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Good news from Austin: Gov. Rick Perry and his staff are taking a 'hard look'..."

Texas governor should help improve road-and-rail plan


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2009

Good news from Austin: Gov. Rick Perry and his staff are taking a "hard look" at the road-and-rail transportation funding plan introduced last week by North Texas legislators. Welcome aboard, governor.

Leaders from throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area have been working hard on this plan for more than five years. With the governor’s help, Texas could find ways to ease the traffic congestion that is hurting work force productivity and fouling the air in its major metropolitan areas.

Just one thing, though: Perry and his team are obligated to help provide a solution to the mess on our roadways, not just reject proposals that they judge to be imperfect. State Sen. John Carona of Dallas and Rep. Vicki Truitt of Keller have filed the Texas Local Option Transportation Act early in the current legislative session. There’s plenty of time to make the bill better before the session ends on June 1.

Perry has the power to veto any bill passed by the Legislature. He can also help ensure passage of almost any bill through public support and legislative arm-twisting once he is satisfied that the purpose and terms are good for the state.

The transportation bill as currently worded would allow county commissioners to pick from a list of local revenue options to fund specific road and rail projects. But none of those projects would move forward, none of the taxes or fees picked to fund them would be imposed, unless they are itemized on a ballot and approved by county voters.

The projects and funding clearly would require coordination among counties. No road or rail line would work if it simply goes to the county line and stops, nor would it be feasible to impose a local-option gasoline tax on one side of the county line and no such tax on the other.

For role models in leadership, Perry need look no further than the North Texas officials and business leaders who have helped bring this bill to its current point. To name just a few: Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck and North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino. They were joined by others from throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth region, as well as by representatives of major employers such as Texas Instruments and American Airlines.

Jeremiah Kuntz, Perry’s transportation adviser, says the governor favors user fees when it comes to funding transportation projects. He targets one proposed revenue option in the bill as veering away from Perry’s vision: a proposed "new resident impact fee" to be paid by people who move to the state and register a vehicle here for the first time.

Why is it wrong to ask people who have contributed nothing toward building the state’s current transportation system to help by paying to use and expand it? Still, if the governor has a better idea, let’s hear it. In the past, Perry’s solution has been to let private companies build toll roads, including the 'now-defunct' Trans-Texas Corridor.

How’s that idea working out for you, governor?

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