Friday, January 15, 2010

"Rick Perry. Slippery Conditions [still] Ahead"

Ads Inifinitum: Hutchison's "Cha-Ching"


by Reeve Hamilton
Texas Tribune
Copyright 2009

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's campaign latest ad takes to the air today. They are calling it "Cha-Ching."

The ad 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."

Here's the script and the campaign's sourcing:

CHYRON: “This is not a European road. Yet. Rick Perry tried to seize private land and toll existing roads. So a foreign company could collect tolls, too.”
  • The Bill That Created The Trans-Texas Corridor Included A Provision That “Allowed Existing Highways To Be Converted Into Toll Roads.” “In that first session as chairman, [State Rep. Mike] Krusee carried House Bill 3588, a huge measure that created a framework for Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor plan for cross-state supertollways, gave power and money to newly created local toll agencies, and allowed existing highways to be converted into toll roads.” (Laylan Copelin and Ben Wear, “Krusee To Leave At End Of Term,” Austin American-Statesman, 11/28/07)
  • HB 3588 Was Signed Into Law By Rick Perry On June 22, 2003. (Texas State Legislature Online,, Accessed 1/4/10)
  • HB 3588 Allowed For The Texas Transportation Commission To Convert A Free Highway Into A Toll Road And Transfer It To A Private Authority. (H.B. 3588, Text Of Bill As Enrolled,, Accessed 1/4/10)
  • Shortly After HB 3588 Became Law, “Its Sweeping Effects Became Obvious … As Central Texans Fought Attempts To Toll A Portion Of U.S. 183 That Was Close To Opening As A Free Road.” “The bill [HB 3588] was passed overwhelmingly in relative obscurity because of legislative focus elsewhere. But its sweeping effects became obvious within months as Central Texans fought attempts to toll a portion of U.S. 183 that was close to opening as a free road. Introduction in early 2004 of a seven-tollway plan in Central Texas, which would come on top of five other toll roads already under construction or nearing it, caused an uproar.” (Laylan Copelin and Ben Wear, “Krusee To Leave At End Of Term,” Austin American-Statesman, 11/28/07)
  • Senate Research Center: “Current Law Authorizes The Texas Department Of Transportation (TxDOT) To Convert An Existing Non-Tolled State Highway Or Segment Of A Highway Into A Toll Road.” “Current law authorizes the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to convert an existing non-tolled state highway or segment of a highway into a toll road, if the county commissioners court in which the road exists consents and the conversion is approved by the voters of the affected county or municipality.” (Senate Research Center, Bill Analysis Of SB 220,, 3/19/09)
  • Perry’s “Trans-Texas Corridor Tollway … Was To Be Built And Owned In Part By A Foreign Company.” “Texans never bought into Perry’s idea for the $200 billion Trans-Texas Corridor tollway. It was too expensive, too expansive, ate up too much private land, split family farms and ranches, and was to be built and owned in part by a foreign company that would reap the toll revenues.” (Editorial, “The Trans-Texas Dead End,” Austin American-Statesman, 1/9/09)
  • TxDOT’s Contract With Spanish-Owned Cintra Would Have Allowed The Company To Collect And Keep Tolls On TTC Roads For 50 Years. “Three years after the Trans-Texas Corridor was proposed, state officials and private-sector partners have agreed to build the first leg of toll roads. … The contract formalizes the relationship between the state and Cintra Zachry, which in December agreed to build the 316-mile leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor with private funds in exchange for the right to collect and keep tolls for 50 years.” (Gordon Dickson, “Contract Signed For Toll Road,” Fort Worth Star Telegram, 3/12/05)
  • Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor Would Require The Government Seizure Of Nearly 600,000 Acres Of Private Property. “TTC also could require the state to acquire nearly 600,000 acres of private land, much from farmers and ranchers.” (Michael Graczyk, “Public Meetings Air Worries About Giant Texas Highway Project,” The Associated Press, 1/17/08)
  • Lands Seized Could Have Included “Homes, Churches, Schools, Businesses, Ranchland, And Farmlands.” “Conservative Republicans are opposed to the idea that a foreign company will be given carte blanche to raze homes, churches, schools, businesses, ranchland, and farmlands for private toll roads that will be cash cows for the next 50 years or so.” (“Perry Scope,” Texas Observer, 9/8/06)
CHYRON: “A top Perry aide was the foreign company’s lobbyist. Before Perry gave them billions in TxDOT contracts. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.”
  • Before Joining Perry’s Staff As Legislative Director, Dan Shelley Worked For Cintra Up Until 3 Months Before The Company Was Selected For The $7.2 Billion Trans-Texas Corridor Project. “A top aide to Gov. Rick Perry worked for a Spanish company until three months before the company was picked for a $7.2 billion state road project.” (Pete Slover and Tony Hartzel, “Perry Aide Worked For Corridor Firm,” The Dallas Morning News, 12/29/04)
  • Shelley Lobbied TxDOT Officials On Behalf Of Cintra Numerous Times Before Joining Perry’s Office. “A former lobbyist [Dan Shelley] who is now a top adviser to Gov. Rick Perry met at least five times with state transportation officials on behalf of a Spanish construction company months before it won a multibillion dollar road deal, state records show. … Mr. Shelley began consulting for Cintra a year ago, working on a contingency that paid him solely based on how much business Cintra secured in Texas, the governor’s office said.” (Pete Slover and Tony Hartzel, “Aide’s Role For Cintra Disputed,” The Dallas Morning News, 12/31/04)
  • While Shelley Was On The Governor’s Payroll, Cintra Was Awarded The Massive Contract To Build The Trans-Texas Corridor. “Lobbyist Dan Shelley worked for the firm [Cintra] as a consultant just before he went to the governor's office, a connection first revealed in 2004. State officials denied any connection between that circumstance and the decision, three months later, to award Cintra the huge highway contract.” (Pete Slover and Tony Hartzel, “Trans-Texas Firm Hires Ex-Perry Aide,” The Dallas Morning News, 8/18/06)
  • In September 2005, Shelley Left Perry’s Office; Shortly Thereafter He Signed A Lucrative Lobbying Contract With Cintra. “Once again, Gov. Rick Perry's former liaison to the Legislature is working for the Spanish company that won the rights to develop the $7 billion Trans-Texas Corridor. … [M]r. Shelley has left the governor's office, and he and his daughter have large contracts to lobby for the road builder. … Mr. Shelley resigned his state job in September and struck a lobbying deal with Cintra worth between $50,000 and $100,000 to work from March through the end of this year. In addition, his daughter and lobbying partner, Jennifer Shelley-Rodriguez, will earn between $25,000 and $50,000 from the company over the same period, state records show.” (Pete Slover and Tony Hartzel, “Trans-Texas Firm Hires Ex-Perry Aide,” The Dallas Morning News, 8/18/06)
CHYRON: “Rick Perry. Slippery conditions ahead.”
  • The Trans-Texas Corridor “Is Still Officially Alive In Statute.” “The Trans-Texas Corridor, Perry’s 4,000-mile dream of tollways and rail lines cross-hatching the state, has been pronounced dead several times, but is still officially alive in statute. It was scheduled to be scuttled in the TxDOT sunset bill, but the bill died instead.” (Ben Wear, “Probing The Pileup For Transportation News This Session,” Austin American-Statesman, 6/8/09)
  • The Dallas Morning News’ Colleen McCain Nelson: “[A] Lot Of People Have Said The Trans-Texas Corridor Isn’t Dead Until Rick Perry Isn’t Governor, And So I Wouldn’t Completely Rule Out The Possibility That This Could Be Reincarnated In Some Modified Form If Perry Is Still Indeed Governor.” (WFAA's “Inside Texas Politics,” 10/11/09)

© 2010 Texas Tribune:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


“It’s not a good public policy."

Mileage Meters? Texans Could Get Taxed By the Mile


NBC (Dallas / Fort Worth)
Copyright 2009

A tax on the miles you drive could be a way to pay for Texas roads in the future.

Texas transportation planners are studying the idea of a “mileage meter” to help raise money.

Cars built after 1999 have a computer port that can access many types of data about the vehicle.

Progressive Insurance already offers a device that connects to that port for pay as you go rates.

“Mileage does have a lot to do with it,” said Mike Leonard, a Progressive insurance agent in Carrollton. “The less the miles, the less exposure Progressive has. So therefore, they’re willing to give you a discount on your rates.”

The Texas Department of Transportation is investigating whether such a device might also be used to tax drivers for how much they use roads.

“I’m not ready to embrace that technology, but it is a technology we may have to look at,” said State Sen. John Carona, of Dallas, a Republican.

Carona said Texas has an estimated $100 billion worth of unfunded transportation needs.

“The money simply does not exist, and if people are being honest with constituents, they come out and just tell them that," he said. "We don’t have the money in Austin, and there isn’t the ability locally to raise this money to be able to solve these problems.”

Carona said a 20-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax approved 19 years ago no longer covers Texas transportation requirements. The state senator said he believes Texas has resorted to too many toll roads, which he claims cost citizens more in the long run.

“It’s not a good public policy," he said. "I would argue continued advancement toward more toll roads is bad for Texas.”

Another pay-as-you-go plan might require drivers to electronically record their mileage at the gas pump, which is already required by for some private company cars.

Carona said raising the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon could pay for all the unfunded transportation needs, but Carona has found that option has found that option extremely unpopular among state lawmakers.

One way or another, all of the options require citizens to pay more to solve Texas transportation needs.

“We are substantially behind the times in dealing with this,” Carona said. “We’re going to face substantially greater congestion and air quality issues.”

© 2010 NBC:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Medina, Hutchison and 39% Perry hold first debate

First Texas Republican Primary Debate

(Sponsored by NASCO member Lockheed Martin)

perry oops2

Watch it again : [HERE]

© 2010 The Texas Debates:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Meanwhile the Bush administration was pushing the biggest toll scheme on Earth, a plan to turn Texas into a toll state..."

Uh-oh, does this mean more toll schemes?


By Paul Mulshine
The Star Ledger (New Jersey)
Copyright 2009

Buried at the bottom of a New York Times article about the Bret Schundler appointment is this nugget of information about Chris Christie's choice for transportation commissioner, James Simpson:

"Interestingly, he gave high praise in 2008 to Mr. Corzine’s ill-fated plan to raise turnpike and parkway tolls 800 percent to pay for transportation improvements, calling it courageous and giving it the Bush administration’s endorsement. But Mr. Christie, as a candidate, ridiculed the plan and has ruled out both toll and tax increases. Mr. Simpson, at a news conference on Monday, showed he had trimmed his sails: he said taxes were off the table and spoke instead about cost-cutting and public-private partnerships."

Public-private partnerships? I've been following the toll issue closely for almost a decade now, and that's code for those nutty schemes promoted by foreign toll-road companies to charge you based on all sorts of new criteria, such as traffic density.

This is the sort of thing you read in Reason Magazine, which pretends to be a journal of libertarian thought but is in reality the propaganda front for the toll interests. And those interests are not partisan. Democrats like Gov. Jon Corzine and Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania have pushed toll schemes. Meanwhile the Bush administration was pushing the biggest toll scheme on Earth, a plan to turn Texas into a toll state.

The argument these guys make is always the same: We can't afford to raise the gas tax, so we need tolls. There are some people dumb enough to accept this argument, but all must have failed fifth-grade math.

The current cost of New Jersey's gas tax is about half a cent a mile in a typical car. Meanwhile tolls can exceed 15 cents a mile. That's 30 times as much tax just to cover the same distance.

So keep an eye on this guy. The pols of both parties are simply salivating over the prospect of putting tolls on such roads as I-287, I-78 and I-80. Don't let them pretend that this is not a tax hike.

And by the way, note this gem from the Reason website: "When toll road opponents claim toll rates will be $1.60 or $2 per mile in the year 2050, they fail to tell you that your own salary will be comparably higher by that year."

Got that? You might be paying two bucks a mile, but don't worry. And this is an argument in favor of tolls? Do the math on that one and you'll see it's equal to a gas tax of sixty dollars per gallon on a car that gets 30 mpg. Whenever you hear someone argue tolls are better than the gas tax, remind yourself that tolls are a tax - a much higher one.

ALSO: This Christie quote from a PolitickerNJ article makes me even more fearful these guys are pondering a toll scheme of some sort:

‘I’ve had extensive conversations with Jim Simpson and Jim Weinstein about the Transportation Trust Fund situation, and again, we’re not going to be raising the gas tax,” he said. “Their charge is to figure out how we’re going to fix this without raising the gas tax.”

If you know the state budget, you know there is no other source of revenue for roads in it. And that means Christie and Co. are pondering either raising motor vehicle fees once again or coming up with some sort of a toll scheme. That's the math. And there's no way around it.

© 2010 The Star Ledger :

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"If these firms are such rugged individualists, why do they persist in borrowing on the public's credit rather than their own?"

The Subsidy That Won't Die

The big banks claim the government isn't helping them anymore. Not exactly. Check out this little-known subsidy.


By Daniel Gross
Copyright 2009

The big bankers are in the news again, and they're steamed. On Wednesday, bank CEOs will testify before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Meanwhile, the industry is pushing back against plans from the Obama administration to tax large banks as part of an effort to recoup bailout costs. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, bristling at criticism of his hardworking bankers, told employees: "I am a little tired of the constant vilification of these people." Wall Street's big shots have had enough They've paid back their TARP money—which, some of them say, they didn't need anyway—with interest. They've got the government off their balance sheets, so now the government should stop meddling with them.

But the big American banks aren't nearly so independent as they would have us believe. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and their peers are still benefitting hugely from significant post-crisis subsidy programs that boost their profits. I'm talking mostly about the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program (TLGP). This was a program started in the wake of the Lehman Bros. collapse to deal with the fact that banks were having a tough time raising short-term capital on decent terms. Under the TLGP, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which is ultimately backed by the taxpayers, would guarantee debt in exchange for fees paid by the banks issuing debt.

The TGLP was ended to new entrants in June 2009 and thus far has gone without a loss. But the fact remains: Private companies were allowed to borrow massive amounts of money—$345 billion at the peak in May 2009—on the public's credit. At the end of the third quarter, there was still $313 billion outstanding.

Banks and financial institutions have to pay money to get money. When they pay less to borrow, it's much easier to make profits, and they tend to borrow more of it. When they have to pay more to borrow, it's more difficult to make money. This chart (from Bloomberg, via Zero Hedge) breaks down the TLGP borrowings of individual institutions as of Nov. 30 and the interest rates they're paying. General Electric was the largest user, with nearly $88 billion. (Its GE Capital unit has prodigious borrowing needs.) But GE was followed by the big bailed-out banks: Citigroup ($64.6 billion), Bank of America ($44.5 billion), JPMorgan ($39.7 billion), Morgan Stanley ($25 billion), Goldman Sachs ($21.26 billion), and Wells Fargo ($9.5 billion). With the exception of Citi, the government no longer owns shares in these firms. And so they feel the government should have no say in their practices going forward.

But if these firms are such rugged individualists, why do they persist in borrowing on the public's credit rather than their own? And why did they do it in the first place? After all, unlike with the TARP, participation in the TLGP program was entirely voluntary. Here's a list of the banks that opted out of the program: You'll note that the Wall Street biggies aren't on it. At any time, the banks could go out into the public markets and raise debt to replace the taxpayer-subsidized borrowings. But they haven't. The reason: It would make them less profitable.

Take Goldman. The chart shows that Goldman was paying a blended rate of 0.767 percent annual interest on $21.3 billion in FDIC-guaranteed debt. For every 100 basis points (i.e., if that debt bore an interest rate of 1.7 percent instead of 0.7 percent), Goldman is saving $213 million in interest costs per year. In the spring of 2009, when much of this debt was issued, the spread—i.e., the difference between the interest rates charged to private-sector corporate borrowers and to the government borrowers—was significant. In April 2009, it stood at 540 basis points. I don't know what to call this other than a huge subsidy.

There are more ongoing subsidies for the big banks. The fact that taxpayers guarantee the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac preserved the value of mortgage-backed securities owned by these banks. One of the components of the TARP is the HAMP, under which the government writes checks to lenders who made reckless loans so that they can modify them and keep people in their homes. Funds issued under the HAMP are not expected to be paid back. From April through December 2009, more than $35 billion in such funds have been disbursed to lenders, with more to come. Check out Page 20 of the most recent TARP transactions report, and you'll see that the list of participants in HAMP includes CitiMortgage (a unit of Citi), Wells Fargo, Saxon (owned by Morgan Stanley), and Bank of America and one of its subsidiaries, Countrywide.

Among the first questions the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commissioners should ask each CEO: How much worse would their profits be if taxpayers weren't insuring huge chunks of their debt—and if they had to borrow on their own credit instead of on the public's? And would they care to quantify the amount of the subsidies they're getting?

© 2010 Newsweek:

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"People are going to realize that every new road in the metroplex is going to be a toll road."

NTTA leaders fear Dallas area's toll road push moving too fast


The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

As the Dallas area rushes forward in pursuit of more toll roads, warnings that it may be doing so at its own peril have been emanating from an unexpected corner: the top leaders of the North Texas Tollway Authority.

Even as the NTTA enters the final weeks of negotiations that all sides expect will conclude by Feb. 28 with a multibillion-dollar deal to build two new giant toll projects in Dallas and Tarrant counties, the agency's two top board members have been warning that the region may be moving too fast on toll roads.

"People are going to realize that every new road in the metroplex is going to be a toll road," NTTA vice chairman Victor Vandergriff said at a recent meeting of the NTTA board.

He was only exaggerating a little.

The Regional Transportation Council approves a 25-year plan for area transportation projects every five years – and the current plan has included a map with precious few free roads. Roads paid for with taxes have emerged as something of a luxury, one that the RTC no longer sees as affordable, given the rising needs and insufficient funds from Austin and Washington.

A new plan is in the works now, and officials say it could shift away from tolls.

But for now, tolls are fast becoming the dominant way local officials hope to move Dallas area residents from one place to another.

The NTTA already manages three major toll roads – the Sam Rayburn Tollway, the Bush Turnpike, and its oldest and still most lucrative, the Dallas North Tollway – and is collecting tolls on the first stages of a fourth, State Highway 161 in Dallas County.

Over the next six weeks or so, NTTA is expected to reach an agreement with the state Department of Transportation to complete Highway 161 and build the Southwest Parkway and Chisholm Trail toll roads in Tarrant County. A major expansion of the Bush Turnpike is under way now, and officials in Dallas continue to hope that NTTA will build the Trinity Parkway near downtown. State officials have said they want to add new tolled lanes to Interstate 35 between Dallas to Denton, as a means to pay for the expansion of that highway.

In addition, two major private toll roads, the region's first, are expected to begin construction during the next 18 months. The Spanish toll road developer Cintra has teamed with other investors to rebuild LBJ Freeway in Dallas and Interstate 820 and State Highway 183 in Tarrant County, and will add what will probably be the costliest toll lanes in Texas on each.

Both toll projects are expected to be completed by 2016 or sooner.

"Even our free roads will soon have a toll component," Vandergriff said.

Both Vandergriff and NTTA chairman Paul Wageman, who has also voiced reservations about the extent of tolling in Dallas, say toll roads are essential as Texas tries to keep traffic moving in the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S.

But they worry that adding too many tolls, too quickly, could erode the one thing that makes them such a valuable tool in the first place: the willingness of drivers to pay their tolls.

"I do have concerns ... that the public will only tolerate a certain amount of tolling," Wageman told reporters at a news briefing in Arlington earlier this month. "We understand that to get the roads built, there is going to be a tolling component [to help pay for them]. But we are concerned because ultimately we must have public receptivity to tolling. We do not want to be in a position where that receptivity goes away, as that ultimately affects the business we are in."

Toll roads remain a daily trade-off for hundreds of thousands of NTTA customers, who pay to save valuable time getting to work or the airport or to a meeting after school.

But will they remain popular, in the face of rising rates and as they spread to every corner of the region?

Vandergriff and Wageman voiced their worries separately this month as negotiations over Southwest Parkway and Highway 161 accelerated and brought into focus the debt required to build those roads, on top of the $7 billion NTTA already owes.

All that debt will be paid for by tolls – and if the tolls don't produce enough revenue to satisfy bondholders, the rates would probably have to jump, just as they did earlier this year when NTTA increased rates by about 23 percent.

But raising rates will only work if enough drivers are willing to pay the higher rates to offset those who abandon the toll roads.

Already, some drivers have begun shunning the turnpikes.

Nathan Maxfield, a 35-year-old Web designer, used the Dallas North Tollway when he lived in Frisco and worked in Addison. But he began cutting back even before he moved to Plano.

In September, he started a Facebook group called People Against the NTTA.

Only about 60 others have joined his group, but Maxfield said frustration with NTTA's rates is a common theme among his friends and colleagues.

"It was just the rising costs, and toll roads were just spreading everywhere you looked," Maxfield said, explaining why he created the group. "It seemed like pretty soon, we wouldn't be able to get anywhere without paying a toll."


The North Central Texas Council of Governments is seeking input on how to shape the region's transportation network over the next 25 years and will literally redraw the map that for the past five years has shown nearly every new road as a toll road.

If the map for the so-called 2035 Plan is to look any different from the 2030 Plan, it will likely require a mix of new taxes, new approaches, and more rail.

Michael Morris, transportation director for the council of governments, just completed a series of public hearings, and written suggestions are encouraged. Send them to

© 2009 Dallas Morning News:

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Unfair Dinkum: Australian Toll Road Investors Lose A$3.5 Billion

Toll roads fail to support investors: analysis

Business Spectator (Australia)
Copyright 2010

Investors have lost an estimated $3.5 billion on toll road projects as upbeat traffic forecasts and high debt levels resulted in large write-downs and collapses across the sector, according to an Australian Financial Review report.

The losses are seen weighing on state governments with tight budgets, and will add to pressure for an overhaul of infrastructure funding and private sector support for major projects.

The newspaper said that further write-downs are expected when Brisbane's RiverCity Motorway opens to traffic this year, and the city's Airport link is also expected to bring associated problems.

Investors in Sydney's Lane Cove Tunnel may sustain losses of more than $1 billion, as the company faces receivership.

Nomura Australia credit analyst Ben Byrne warned that investors won't tolerate such high gearing levels in future projects.

Shareholders in Melbourne's ConnectEast, which owns the EastLink road network, were revealed to have suffered losses of as much as $900 million in the four years since the toll road operator was floated.

The stock in the company remains about 53 per cent below its $1.00 issue price.

Infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese will employ the services of KPMG to look at overhauling the public private partnership (PPP) project model.

Mr Byrne said that investors will only accept much lower gearing levels on future greenfield projects, and that this may hinge on more assurance about the credibility of traffic forecasts.

One proposed model would involve government provision of a partial underwriting of these traffic figures, thereby lowering the risks for investors, although this may see an added cost for taxpayers.

© 2010 Business Spectator:

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Governor 39%: The Madonna of Texas politics

Perry for President: Conjuring the Apocalypse

Money can't by Rick Perry love


Bob Moser
The Texas Observer
Copyright 2009

If you're in the mood to curl up and read a Moby-Dick-sized take on Gov. Rick Perry's blessedly remote prospects of becoming a serious presidential contender in 2012—and really, who isn't?—your prayers have been answered.

February's Texas Monthly takes a temporary breather from its stock of Top 10 Lone Star Cliche compilations to bring you nearly every conceivable thought about the subject from house pundit Paul Burka.

The notion that Perry has national aspirations isn't novel. Among many others, yours truly has mentioned it a few times. In fairness, I was speculating about Perry joining his political soulmate, Sarah Palin, as No. 2 on a GOP nightmare ticket in 2012. Burka ups the ante, laying out a just-barely-plausible scenario in which Perry could take the top spot on the ticket.

Making the idea of Perry for President just barely plausible is a strain, for sure—and maybe that's why it takes Burka so godawful long to do it. As Dr. Johnson said of Paradise Lost, "none ever wished it longer than it is." So in the event that you want to spare yourself the whole shebang, here's the Cliffs Notes with a few critical comments:

Perry is an underrated politician.
True enough. But when Burka tries to prove that Perry is ready for national prime-time by comparing his political skills favorably to Kay Bailey Hutchison's, he's surely committing one of the major fallacies. People, nobody in national politics looks bad on the stump compared with Hutchison. Perry does have charisma to burn among his people. I've witnessed it at the tea parties and anti-abortion rallies. But when he's faced with his foes—the media, say, or smarter opponents in a debate—he can be downright lousy. Mike Huckabee, who can sound populist and intelligent when necessary, would crush him in a debate like a flea. And can you picture Perry on Meet the Press?

Perry has "exquisite" political timing and can ride the Tea Party wave in 2012. Well, I would not have used the word "exquisite." I'd lean more toward "desperate." I think of Perry as the Madonna of Texas politics: so engulfingly frantic to win (as she's frantic to be famous) that his whole being is focused on doing whatever it'll take, and sniffing the popular winds accurately enough to do it. He got a timely whiff of anti-Obama frenzy early in 2009 and unquestionably made the most of it, as Burka notes. But he'd have stiff competition for Tea Party votes from Palin and Huckabee, who can't stop calling them "patriots" and has a weekly FOXNews platform from which to do it.

Perry has a national following—really! Now, this is silly. Perry has made some appearances on FOX, been praised by Matt Drudge and The Wall Street Journal and Rush Limbaugh (and Burka seemingly documents every last instance of this). But he doesn't register a blip on any GOP preference polls for 2012, and his greatest notoriety—stemming from the tea parties and his anti-stimulus nonsense—has actually come in national liberal circles. I'd be willing to wager that more MSNBC viewers than FOX viewers would recognize him. And Rachel Maddow devotees, I think we can all agree, are not exactly his natural constituency. But I do think there's a good chance that the Republican nominee in 2012 will emerge from obscurity. Which is where Perry exists on the national scene.

Being Texan would help. I think not. The national memory is short indeed, but George W. Bush hasn't been entirely erased from it. Another right-wing ideologue from the state America loves to hate? I don't see it, even among Republicans. Burka claims that it matters that Texas' sheer size might matter, noting that "Texas will send more delegates to the Republican National Convention than any other state, and the more the Republican party dominates a state—legislative and congressional majorities, for example, or voting Republican for president—the more delegates a state gets. Texas qualifies for all the extra delegates that are available." (You see how he goes on.) But presidential nominees are chosen in primaries, not at nominating conventions. Unless this is 1924 and I've gotten lost somehow.

He'll have to beat Bill White first. Here, Burka is spot on: The former Houston mayor is going to be Perry's first formidable Democratic foe next November, assuming both men make it through their primary challenges as expected. A Perry victory would be the smartest bet, especially if there's a strong anti-Obama tide. But Perry will have a tussle on his hands—and it's not the fight he originally expected, against Hutchison. One thing Burka doesn't mention (which is surprising, since he mentions everything else) is that a Perry victory wouldn't give him much juice nationally. In a good Republican year across the board, the re-election of a GOP governor in Texas wouldn't exactly make turn heads.

So there: That's the sum of it, in a fraction of the length. Except for Burka's final line, which is probably the best of this whole epic exercise in speculative punditry. After outlining the dominoes that would have to fall for Perry to become the 45th president, Burka concludes: "Heaven help us all."

Amen to that.

© 2010 The Texas Observer:

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If Perry lacks trust in Texas voters, the feeling is mutual


Perry lacks trust in Texas voters


Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2009

Gov. Rick Perry must be worried that the citizens of Texas are going to lose their minds and turn state government over to the Democrats.

This week on the campaign stump, he proposed two state constitutional amendments based on the notion that we can't afford democracy.

One is that any state tax increase would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

Functionally this is already the case in the Senate, where everything but voter ID bills needs a two-thirds majority, but apparently Perry is concerned because Texas two years ago elected an uncomfortable number of Democrats and tossed autocratic Speaker Tom Craddick in favor of a speaker who will actually work with said Democrats.

Maybe Perry has become a great admirer of California, where a two-thirds requirement for passing a budget led to the state paying its bills with IOUs while the Legislature bickered and showboated.

Perry's second proposed amendment also has its spiritual roots in California. It's a revenue cap that would require the Leigislature to limit budget growth to a combination of inflation and population growth.

Personally, I don't share Perry's worries about the people of Texas. I don't think we are in much danger of turning into Massachusetts or Connecticut or any of those other socialist states.

I trust democracy. If some politicians can persuade Texans that we should re-elect them after they increase our taxes, I figure they must have a pretty good argument.

Our state sales tax, by far the state's largest revenue source, hasn't increased since 1990, when Gov. Bill Clements reluctantly agreed to a quarter-cent hike for school funding under pressure from the Texas Supreme Court.

In other major areas, we've had effective cuts.

In 2006, for example, Perry and the Legislature instituted a new tax on businesses with the notion that this would provide enough money to cut local school property taxes by a third.

‘Rainy Day Fund' takes hit

Experts said the new tax wouldn't provide enough money to make up for the property tax cuts forced on the school districts, but Perry argued that the tax cuts would increase business activity so much that everybody would come out ahead.

The experts were right. The new business tax was several billion dollars short of making up the difference.

The 2007 Legislature covered the gap with a budget surplus based from inflated property values (meaning the state had to pay districts less under the old formula) and on high oil and gas revenues, explained Houston Rep. Scott Hochberg, the Legislature's resident school finance expert.

The 2009 Legislature largely made up the difference with billions of federal stimulus dollars.

Next year the state's “Rainy Day Fund” can expect to take a hit. And after that?

Gas tax same since '91

Then there's the gasoline tax, a major source for road construction and maintenance. It's been at 20 cents per gallon since 1991. That's about 12.5 cents in today's dollars, about a 38 percent cut.

No wonder our cities have become so congested, and the governor responded with a plan based on privatized toll roads.

Tax caps can be expensive. Ask students in Texas colleges and universities, where skyrocketing tuitions and fees are making up for limited state funds.

Under-18 population

Dick Lavine, a pre-eminent tax analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, notes that limiting budget increases to inflation plus population growth doesn't reflect the Texas reality of a large population under 18 — a stage when humans cost considerably more than they earn.

Yet if we don't provide them a good education, high school and beyond, we don't need an expert to tell us that our economy will not generate enough income to meet our budget needs with low taxes.

Employers love low taxes, but they need skilled workers. That's not an easy balance, but I'd rather trust it to democracy than to a simplistic mathematical formula.

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