Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Rick Perry should do an infomercial on how to become a millionaire as a professional politician."

Perry's wealth fueled by land deals, investments

Related Article: Campaign contributions subsidize cushy lifestyle of Texas politicians


By Jay Root
The Associated Press
Copyright 2009

Gov. Rick Perry never had much money growing up, and he has spent most of his adult life in public office, drawing a part-time salary as a legislator and relatively modest earnings in statewide office for the last quarter-century.

But thanks to his investments and a series of private land deals, some that took advantage of his political connections, Perry has squeaked over the millionaire line, records examined by The Associated Press show.

Perry's Democratic opponents have suggested in the past that Perry traded on his power and influence to turn a buck. Now Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Perry's opponent in a tough Republican primary as he fights for a third full term, is raising the same accusations.

"Rick Perry should do an infomercial on how to become a millionaire as a professional politician," said Hutchison campaign manager Terry Sullivan. "From abusing his power over appointments to getting sweetheart real estate deals from supporters, he's a regular get-rich-quick icon."

Perry aides say the governor has benefited from nothing more than strong business acumen and good timing. He has also lost some dough along the way, most notably last year, when a trust fund he owns took a huge hit during the Wall Street meltdown and shed more than a half-million dollars in short- and long-term losses, tax records show. Aides note that he has one home and is putting a child through college, like many Texans.

The West Texas ranch boy won a state House seat in 1984 as a Democrat and has never lost an election. A former Texas A&M yell leader and Air Force pilot, Perry switched to the Republican Party in 1989, was elected agriculture commissioner in 1990 and then lieutenant governor in 1998. He took over as governor in 2000 when Gov. George W. Bush became president and has become the longest serving governor in Texas history.

When he entered the Legislature, the Haskell County native was still working on the family ranch, farming cotton and ranching cattle. But he's made most of his wealth buying and selling real estate — earning him about $2 million in pretax profits since 1991, records and interviews show.

Perry once sold a 9.3-acre tract to computer magnate Michael Dell for nearly four times what he paid for it; influential Texas lobbyist Mike Toomey represented Perry at the sale. The West Austin property sold for $465,000 in 1995 and gave the Dell estate badly needed access to an adjacent municipal sewage district.

A little more than a year later, Perry snapped up 60 acres southwest of Austin, after acting on a tip from flamboyant developer Gary Bradley, whose real estate empire fell into bankruptcy in 2002. The property was sold 2½ years later at a $239,000 profit.

Perry has also bought and sold houses and raw land for various gains since he won statewide office in 1990.

"He just manages to fall into these deals over the years," said Houston accountant Bob Martin, who helped analyze 18 years' worth of Perry's tax returns for the AP.

"It looks like his net worth increased while he was in office, in the relative scheme of things, on a small salary." Perry made about $85,000 a year as agriculture commissioner and now draws $150,000 annually as governor, but as a legislator and lieutenant governor, he made a part-time salary of just $7,200.

He also was entitled to daily expense payments during legislative sessions and later, as lieutenant governor in 1999 and 2000, Perry boosted his take-home pay by filling in for then-Gov. Bush, who spent a lot of time outside Texas running for president.

His wife, Anita, helped boost the family's income during the lieutenant governor years, making about $67,000 as a salaried employee for the Perryman Group, a business consulting firm based in Waco.

Perry's biggest real estate payday came in 2007, when he sold two-thirds of an acre of lakefront property he had acquired in 2001 from friend Troy Fraser, a Republican state senator who owns a nearby tract in Horseshoe Bay. Perry sold the property in March 2007 for $1.14 million — for a profit of $823,766, tax records show.

That helped produce the highest annual income Perry and his wife have ever reported — about $1.1 million in adjusted gross income, according to their 2007 tax return.

Perry put the profits from the sale into his blind trust, an instrument politicians use to shield themselves from conflicts between public actions and private wealth.

Though Perry knows what has gone into the trust, including proceeds from land sales, aides say he has no control over what's done with the assets once they're deposited.

Spokeswoman Allison Castle said she did not have a figure for Perry's net worth, but she said his blind trust is worth about $896,000. Perry also owns a home in College Station valued at $243,900 this year.

"The real estate investments they have been involved with have been fully disclosed and reported," Castle said. "They own one home with a mortgage that is approximately the same value as the house. The governor and first lady both work, have a mortgage and are paying off student loans for one child while putting another through college."

Anita Perry now works as a $65,000-a-year consultant to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

© 2009 Austin American-Statesman:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Friday, September 25, 2009

Hank Gilbert: The Next Governor of Texas?

Meet Hank Gilbert:
Part I

Part II

Part III

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Using toll roads as a funding mechanism to finance new road construction in El Paso County will be difficult and may be a fiscally unwise investment"

Toll lanes approved for Border Highway


By ABC-7 Reporter Martin Bartlett
Copyright 2009

EL PASO, Texas -- Construction on express toll lanes in El Paso could begin as soon as early next year, according to a state transportation leader.

The toll lanes would affect the area along the Border Highway section of Loop 375. One toll lane would be added in each direction between U.S. 54 and Zaragoza Road.

The Texas Department of Transportation approved construction of the new lanes at a meeting Thursday morning in Austin.

The entire highway will get a makeover. The four existing lanes, two in each direction, will be reconstructed, and an additional lane will be added in the median in each direction. These will be express lanes, meaning you can't exit the freeway between Downtown and Zaragoza once you are in those lanes. You will have to pay a toll to drive on the new lanes.

The existing lanes would remain free to drive on.

The state has been using electronic toll booths elsewhere in the state. House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett said they are still figuring out the technology they will use here.

"The local community that just wants to go a half mile down the road will still be able to go a half mile down the road without being caught in any sort of toll tag situation or toll," Pickett said.

There will be a way to drive on the new lanes without paying a toll. Pickett said any car with two or more people inside will be able to use the toll lanes free of charge. He said that is a first in Texas.

State Rep. Norma Chavez (D-El Paso) released a written statement in reaction to the approval of the toll lanes:

As the State Representative who represents a portion of Loop 375 - from US 54 to Zaragoza - I would like to express my concerns with designating tolled managed lanes on Loop 375 (César Chávez Border Highway), from US 54 to Zaragoza Road in El Paso County, as a toll project on the state highway system.

Based on the community meetings I have attended, and from input by my constituents on toll roads, using toll roads as a funding mechanism to finance the construction of new roads in El Paso County will be difficult and may prove to be a fiscally unwise investment. Many of my constituents who live along the César Chávez Border Highway are on fixed incomes. They live at and/or below the poverty level.

While toll roads may work in wealthier communities, such as Collin County in North Texas - where residents can use the Dallas North Tollway, the President George Bush Turnpike and the Sam Rayburn Tollway - that does not mean they will work in El Paso. The economic indicators suggest as such.

© 2009 KVIA-TV-TV:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"It's not only the driver that's unaware of it, it's also the Toll Road Authority that isn't taking responsibility and doing their job."

License plate mix-up led to high bills


By Erik Barajas
KTRK-TV (Houston, TX)
Copyright 2009

HOUSTON -- A local woman says an annoying mix-up is now over. She repeatedly received a bill from the Harris County Toll Road Authority, but the problem is that the violations were not hers.

When we starting making phone calls, the issue was resolved and we also uncovered a flaw in the county's computer system.

Cars fly through the Ez Tag lane, with most adding $1.50 to their bill. But some rack up a bill that is sent to the wrong person, like this woman who wishes to keep her identity private.

For the last year and three months, she has received a violation letter on an out-of-state license plate from Iowa that is identical to her Texas license plate.

"The first thing they said is, 'Mam, are you the owner of a Honda CRV?' And I said, 'No, I drive a white Corolla," said the woman.

So why did she get a bill for violations on an out-of-state car with the same license plate number?

Despite all the high-tech cameras and computers systems used on the toll road, the software cannot tell the difference between Texas license plates and other states.

"They said it's a machine that is reading the plate and it can't differentiate different states," the woman said.

Even though she called to resolve the first mistake back in June 2008 and changing her license plate, she's received two more violation notices and bills.

"It's very frustrating because I feel I'm being held responsible for someone else's mistakes," said the woman. "It's not only the driver that's unaware of it, it's also the Toll Road Authority that isn't taking responsibility and doing their job.

"Due to technology and human error, we did get a mix-up," said Lawanda Howse of the HCTRA.

Once Eyewitness News got involved the Toll Road Authority easily straightened out the mix-up, but they do admit on a busy day about 70,000 license plates are reviewed and they are right about 98 percent of the time.

"We say maybe out of that 70,000, you may get a 2 percent error," said Howse.

When you do the math, that two percent error rate comes out to about 1,400 people possibly receiving wrong violation notices. The Toll Road Authority told us right now they have no plans to update the system in order for it to differentiate between state's license plates.

In the meantime, our victim says she is glad her account is cleared, but still worries she will receive another notice.

© 2009 KTRK-TV:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"Rick Perry's appetite for toll roads has left drivers stranded...awaiting a project that will end up costing billions of dollars."

Toll opponent runs for governor

Hank Gilbert vs Rick Perry
Hank Gilbert vs Rick Perry

By Josh Baugh
San-Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2009

Standing in front of a boarded-up convenience store that would be razed to make way for a toll road on U.S. 281, East Texas rancher Hank Gilbert said Gov. Rick Perry's appetite for toll roads has left drivers stranded on the North Side awaiting a project that will end up costing billions of dollars.

Gilbert stopped in San Antonio Wednesday to announce his gubernatorial campaign during a 13-city tour across Texas. Gilbert, a Democrat from Whitehouse, is a strong toll opponent and sits on the board of directors of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, or TURF, founded by toll critic Terri Hall.

“Several years ago, right out here on Highway 281, a plan was put into place and money budgeted to ease the congestion of the people of this area by providing overpasses,” he said. “But thanks to Rick Perry's ridiculous Trans-Texas Corridor plan, and his very unfiscal-sounding plan to create toll roads all over this state, what was a couple hundred million dollars to do it efficiently and quickly has now been put on hold and is going to run into billions of dollars to convert this into a 20-lane toll road.”

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Gilbert is condemning something that is supported and being driven by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority.

“Once again, he's criticizing something the local officials want without coming up with solutions to move the 1,000 people a day coming to Texas,” Miner said. “What are his transportation ideas? It's easy to criticize, but what are his ideas to address the infrastructure needs of the state?”

Terri Hall and others from TURF and the San Antonio Toll Party stood behind Gilbert during his press conference. Hall said her groups' official position is that they're for “anyone but Rick Perry,” but they “love it” that Gilbert is running. Hall, a Republican, said she believes Gilbert has crossover appeal.

“What I'm seeing is that people are just fed up with career politicians,” she said. “I think we do need to look at him as a serious candidate.”

Calling for statewide reform, Gilbert said Texas needs more fiscally conservative leadership.

“Problems that we have right now in our state government are the very reason that I'm embarking on this campaign for governor,” he said.

As much as the event looked like it would be all about opposing toll projects, it touched on the subject only briefly. The majority of Gilbert's stump speech focused on education reform.

He often mentioned Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison but acknowledged Democratic opponent Tom Schieffer only once, and not by name. It appears that Gilbert is preparing for a battle in the general election against whoever wins the Republican primary, though he said he's taking nothing for granted.

Former Railroad Commission nominee Mark Thompson, schoolteacher Felix Alvarado and satirist Kinky Friedman also have said seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

© 2009 San Antonio Express-News: /

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

T. Boone Pickens backs Perry's eminent domain

A 'Boone' for Gov. Rick Perry's campaign

Related Link: 'T' is for 'Taking'


Todd J. Gillman
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

Legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens has endorsed Rick Perry's bid for another term as governor, the Perry campaign announced.

Pickens, the founder and chairman of Dallas-based BP Capital Management, has spent the last year promoting the "Pickens plan" to wean this country from dependence on foreign oil, taking pains to go bipartisan. But when it comes to politics, he's probably best known for the $3 million he forked over to bankroll the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- the outfit that set out to discredit Democratic presidential nomiinee John Kerry's Vietnam service during the 2004 campaign.

In July, Pickens said he'd stay out of partisan politics in 2010, but I just looked more closely at his precise promise. He said he'd steer clear of 3d party attack groups (to avoid alienating potential allies on his energy policy crusade). He never said he'd stay out of intraparty fights like the one Perry is engaged in with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Quick check of federal campaign records shows that Pickens and his family have donated about $44,000 through the years to Hutchison's senatorial campaigns.

© 2009 The Dallas Morning News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Let the CTRMA toll road bond buyer beware!"

Central Texas Roads : Not Enough Money or (Soon) Water

This graphic from the Austin American-Statesman presents an optimistic funding projection.

Road Planners face huge budget shortfalls, try to ignore looming water shortages


By Roger Baker
The Rag Blog
Copyright 2009

Consider the emerging factors affecting most transportation planning. Four important basic constraints on long-range transportation plans are: funding trends, population and population distribution trends, and fuel prices.

And in Central Texas, the available water supply counts too.

All these factors are now working against road building, acting to impede sprawl growth like a perfect storm.

At their August meeting CAMPO planners hinted that CAMPO’s long range plans may be unfundable. Then on Monday, Sept. 14, the funding news got worse. CAMPO admitted that it does not look like CAMPO will have the money to fund EITHER of its long range planning alternatives.

From the Austin American-Statesman:
"...Maintenance and operation of the current roads and transit would get $15.5 billion under the CAMPO estimate, and $9.6 billion would go to new roads and transit facilities. CAMPO principal planner Stevie Greathouse said the greater emphasis on maintenance of existing systems reflects a growing awareness in the transportation industry that infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate. Given projected inflation in construction costs, Greathouse said the actual ability to build road and rail capacity would fall by as much as 50 percent..."
The three alternatives proposed in CAMPO's long-range 2035 plan are Build Nothing, the Current Trends Concept, and then the environmentally greener clustered growth Centers Concept. The latter, which is generally seen as preferable by the planners, tries to cluster greener, denser growth in satellite cities like Manor, Cedar Park, and Kyle.

CAMPO might only have half the money they expected to do the long range 2035 stuff, and even the short range TIP is facing severe cutbacks -- and the potential impact has not been fully calculated.

There is no money for SH 45 SW.

Judge Biscoe told CAMPO at the Sept. 14 meeting that building SH 45 SW, a new road over the Edwards Aquifer opposed by environmentalists, would cost $100 million. Then the potential bond lenders would probably require about a $30 million local match, local skin in the game, to get the other $70 million. The local match is not there, because all the local transportation budgets are under stress.

If there was any good news at the CAMPO meeting, it was that Austin may manage to escape tougher federal transportation planning rules due to the city's having exceeded ozone limits. The money news at CAMPO essentially was all bad. Even some federal stimulus funded sidewalks in Manor may not get funded because of TxDOT shortfalls.

As in most places, Texas road funding is closely tied to the fuel tax, meaning that fuel prices ultimately rule over road funding. The CAMPO assumptions and models have tended historically to assume that vehicle travel and thus fuel taxes will always increase. But the federal federal stimulus funds are falling way short of balancing the shortfalls.

TxDOT has mismanaged and over-committed its TIP funds, meaning only about 20% of this major category of funds will be available, which drags down other funding categories within a highly complex leveraged system built on growth, credit, and business as usual.

As a starting handicap to its long term plans, the CAMPO population projections that get approved are completely unscientific and are political in their nature. The choice is a political decision whereby the population projections and distribution are usually chosen to inflate and perpetuate profitable suburban sprawl growth, favored by the development interests with the most political clout.

Roads in Texas are a form of public subsidy for land developers. As such, they tend to be blind to recent travel trends, funding trends, or resource constraints, whether energy or water.

In Central Texas, the available water supply limits growth more than the transportation planners want to admit. The reality is that most of the total Colorado River flow, although buffered by the Highland Lakes, gets used up by the adjacent cities and agriculture before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. During drought periods like the current one, the wells dry up, and there may not be enough stored river water to fulfill existing commitments.

I recently requested via the public Information Act any CAMPO documents that would indicate that CAMPO planners are taking into account the water supply constraints on Central Texas growth that were documented and incorporated in the future population projections for the various Texas river basins, developed by the Texas Water Development Board.

Following is the specific section of federal transportation law that says that MPOs like CAMPO should take other regional environmental plans, (like the TWDB's long term plans based on Texas water supply), into account when doing long range CAMPO transportation planning:

The federal code that regulates CAMPO planning is Title 23, Chapter 1, section 134,

(D) Consultation, comparison, and consideration. -
(i) In general. - The long-range transportation plan shall
be developed, as appropriate, in consultation with State,
tribal, and local agencies responsible for land use
management, natural resources, environmental protection,
conservation, and historic preservation.
(ii) Comparison and consideration. - Consultation under
clause (i) shall involve comparison of transportation plans
to State and tribal conservation plans or maps, if available,
and comparison of transportation plans to inventories of
natural or historic resources, if available.
However, as Mr. Caltalupo noted in his Aug 7 reply,
"Mr. Baker; We don't have any direct requirement to include water-related and water supply/availability factors in the development of our long range plan..."
In other words the federal law indicates that you really should -- but stops short of saying that you must -- take limited natural resources like water into account when planning roads that must serve a vastly expanded future population and its distribution.

Such a planning oversight can get those who invest in toll roads and sprawl development in lots of trouble once somebody bothers to figure out that the water for residential development just isn't there.

Let us look at an extreme case of the CTRMA toll road promoters ignoring natural water supply limits. As background, one should understand that the CTRMA is in financial trouble, unable to build US 290 E as planned, and is beating the bushes looking for toll road lenders. Here the CTRMA director Mike Heiligenstein suggests emulating China as the Texas model for funding toll roads, which implies that traditional funding alternatives assumed in the past are not there anymore.

In their pitch to potential toll road investors on the CTRMA website -- entitled "Mobility Authority Investor Update" -- they boost the hypothetical 2040 population of Williamson County up to an astonishing 1.7 million, far above what even CAMPO projects in 2035 (the January 2008 State Data Center population estimate for Williamson County was 380,000).

The CTRMA got this high number by cherry-picking a period of intense nationwide and Austin area sprawl development from 2000 to 2007, an increase that was cited by the Texas State Data Center. The CTRMA planners then extended this growth spurt at full force for thirty years into the future. This is an assumption apparently calculated to prove that Williamson County toll roads are bound to be sure fire moneymakers.

Such investment planning strategies look like the homegrown Texas equivalent of sub-prime loans packaged for naive investors. In fact, the CTRMA investment promotion document comes with a heavy-duty legal disclaimer, cited in part below. Translation: Let the CTRMA toll road bond buyer beware!
"...In no event shall The Authority [the CTRMA], J.P. Morgan or First Southwest be liable for any use by any party of, for any decision made or action taken by any party in reliance upon, or for any inaccuracies or errors in, or omissions from, the information contained herein and such information may not be relied upon by you in evaluating the merits of..."
Could Williamson County really grow to 1.7 million? Let us compare this toll road promotion fantasy with the sober Texas Water Development Board projections that predict water shortages will occur over much of Williamson County within the next ten years. This chart of anticipated water shortages in Williamson County is from the long range TWDB water plan for the Brazos basin that includes Williamson County.

Go here then get the pdf by clicking on: "Section 4A - Comparison of Demands with Water Supplies to Determine Needs; page 4A-8."

© 2009 The Rag Blog: /

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE