"I don’t think you should take private property except for a public purpose that is very clear."
By ALEX BRANCH
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
IRVING — Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison attacked Gov. Rick Perry’s transportation strategy Friday, calling his once-favored Trans-Texas Corridor plan "the biggest land grab" since the state’s formation.
"It is the Big Kahuna of toll roads," Hutchison told people attending the Transportation and Infrastructure Summit in Irving. "Using toll roads as permanent tax raise is not good public policy."
Hutchison spoke at the summit two days after the head of the Texas Transportation Commission, Deirdre Delisi, made the case to the same audience for privatization. Delisi is Perry’s former chief of staff.
Perry’s spokesman Mark Miner dismissed Hutchison’s comments Friday, saying it is "easy to criticize when you’ve been in Washington for 16 years." He said Perry continues working to create the infrastructure needed to support a fast-growing state.
"People in Texas are looking for results when it comes to transportation issues," Miner said. "Criticizing from Washington is not a solution."
Hutchison, who is expected to formally announce her candidacy for governor Monday, called the Trans-Texas Corridor "ill-conceived" and criticized taking private land "to that extent."
The Trans-Texas Corridor plan was to build a $184 billion network of toll roads over the next 50 years. The grand vision of the plan died, though some aspects have not.
"I believe in private property rights," she said. "I don’t think you should take private property except for a public purpose that is very clear."
She also railed against turning federal highways already built with taxpayer dollars into toll roads, saying it amounts to double taxation.
"It’s a contract broken with the people of our state," she said.
Perry’s office has criticized Hutchison for a lack of leadership on transportation, pointing to a recent bill she introduced that would have allowed states to opt out of a federal transportation program that reimburses a certain percentage of every dollar in federal gasoline tax.
Hutchison later said she voted reluctantly to extend the federal highway trust fund because Congress refused to adopt a more comprehensive transportation fund.
Hutchison denied Friday that the bill was a "throwaway" or offered just "for show."
She concluded with a pitch for her to be elected governor, saying the summit was likely the last time she would address attendees as a U.S. senator.
"I hope that I will be able to address you again at this summit . . . as a leader for Texas," she said.
ALEX BRANCH, 817-390-7689
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