Friday, October 29, 2010

"The pressure will once again be put on state lawmakers to rein in the scheme."

Texas gubernatorial candidates on transportation


Land Line Media Blog
Land Line Magazine
Copyright 2010

For months the candidates for governor in Texas have been taking their message about critical issues, including transportation, to the people in hopes of winning their support. Only a handful of days remain until voters give the candidates the answers to whether they were successful.

The candidates are Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, and Bill White, a Democrat.

Perry’s policies on transportation are well known. The most noteworthy endeavor of his 10-year administration has been his push to create the Trans-Texas Corridor. Approved in 2003, the corridor was touted as a toll road that would cut across Texas from the Mexican border to Oklahoma.

In 2009, after years of debate, the multibillion-dollar TTC was declared dead. But his goal of increasing toll options in the state is very much still alive.

Perry’s election website touts his track record of pursuing “innovative infrastructure solutions for a rapidly growing state by promoting private investment.” Although many Texans cringe at the thought of paying extra to travel around the state, Perry is committed to pushing forward and partnering with private groups to build roads.

Perry’s opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White, is not opposed to tolls. However, he is not interested in the grand tolling plan pushed by Perry. White wants to leave toll talk up to local officials and says it is important to “respect the will of the voters.”

White’s plan for involving locals in the decision process is much more palatable than Perry’s approach of shoving the toll option down their throats. If re-elected, there is no doubt that as long as Perry continues to push anything resembling the TTC plan his constituents are not going to stay mum. The pressure will once again be put on state lawmakers to rein in the scheme.

While the candidates differ on how to approach toll plans, they are both campaigning about the importance of stopping diversions from the transportation budget.

Perry says billions of dollars are diverted from the state’s transportation fund for other purposes. His website touts the governor’s 2010-2011 budget that ended more than $300 million in diversions, and using the money for road construction and maintenance.

On White’s website, he calls for phasing out the diversion of fuel taxes for purposes that are not related to highway construction.

The candidates’ commitment to making sure transportation funds are used for their intended purpose is laudable. Whoever is in the governor’s chair during the next four years, it will be worth tracking whether Perry’s election year budget decision or White’s campaign promise are carried forward.

Addressing other options to boost transportation funding, White says he will call on the Legislature to allow local voters to decide whether to increase their fuel tax. Perry says he is opposed to higher taxes of any kind.

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