Sunday, January 17, 2010

"TxDOT admits it has the power to toll existing roads. Rick Perry signed the bill that gave them the ability to do it."

Perry, Hutchison battle over transportation


Paul Burka
Texas Monthly
Copyright 2010

Transportation is going to be a major battleground in the governor’s race. The two camps exchanged fire after the debate. Perry spokesman Mark Miner put out a statement that accused Hutchison of making misleading statements on her TV ad about transportation policy.

What the Perry camp says (from spokesman Mark Miner):

On 1/11/10, WFAA-TV reported: “In her latest TV ads and speeches, Hutchison claims Perry wants to change some freeways to toll roads. Yet, when asked by News 8 to point out just one highway in Texas that TxDOT is recommending to strictly change from a freeway to a toll road Hutchison didn’t answer directly. … Hutchison can’t identify any because there aren’t any. TxDOT confirmed it is not considering tolling existing free lanes anywhere in the state. Even if it did, a 2005 law backed by Perry would require a countywide vote.”

“After 17 years in Washington, it is clear that Sen. Hutchison has lost touch with Texans,” said Texans for Rick Perry spokesman Mark Miner. “Recycling false information from a previous ad without offering one new idea for how to finance Texas’ roads confirms Sen. Hutchison’s weak record and lack of vision for Texas’ future.”

What the Hutchison camp says:

“U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s campaign latest ad takes to the air today [1/15]. They are calling it ‘Cha-Ching.’ The ad [which shows a series of messages on highway signs] continues to hit her rival, Gov. Rick Perry, on transportation — specifically the issue of tolling roads for the benefit of foreign companies. On conversions of a state roads to a toll roads, Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) spokesman Christopher Lippincott had this to say : ‘It has never occurred. The Texas Transportation Commission rejected the concept formally in May 2008.’ ‘Can we do it legally? Sure,’ he says. ‘Have we? No. Will we? We have no plans to do so, and the Commission has told us they’re not interested.’” [The source of his quote is an article by Reeve Hamilton in the Texas Tribune, January 15.]

Hutchison wins this exchange. TxDOT admits it has the power to toll existing roads. Rick Perry signed the bill that gave them the ability to do it. TxDOT can deny having intentions to do so, but nobody outside of the governor’s office trusts that agency. This is just the beginning of the fight. Hutchison has already laid the groundwork for a charge of cronyism. We’re going to hear about Perry sending his chief of staff to run the agency.

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