Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Install metering equipment in all of the nation's cars and trucks."

CBO: Taxing mileage a 'practical option' for revenue enhancement
Mileage tax by mojoskillet.


By Pete Kasperowicz
The Hill
Copyright 2011

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week released a report that said taxing people based on how many miles they drive is a possible option for raising new revenues and that these taxes could be used to offset the costs of highway maintenance at a time when federal funds are short.

The report discussed the proposal in great detail, including the development of technology that would allow total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to be tracked, reported and taxed, as well as the pros and cons of mandating the installation of this technology in all vehicles.

"In the past, the efficiency costs of implementing a system of VMT charges — particularly the costs of users' time for slowing and queuing at tollbooths — would clearly have outweighed the potential benefits from more efficient use of highway capacity," CBO wrote. "Now, electronic metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option."

The report was requested by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who held a hearing on transportation funding in early March. In that hearing, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the Obama administration is hoping to spend $556 billion over the next six years, much of which would go to federal transportation improvement projects.

Conrad said in response that federal funds are tight, and in asking for recommendations on how to raise that money, he noted the possibility of a VMT tax as a way to solve the problem of collecting less in taxes as people move to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"Do we do gas tax?" Conrad asked. "Do we move to some kind of an assessment that is based on how many miles vehicles go, so that we capture revenue from those who are going to be using the roads who aren't going to be paying any gas tax, or very little, with hybrids and electric cars?"

Conrad argued some recommendation should be made by his committee on these issues when the Senate considers a transportation spending bill later this year.

CBO's report stressed it was making no recommendations but seemed to support a VMT tax as a more accurate way of having drivers pay for the costs of highway maintenance. The report said miles driven is a larger factor in highway repairs than fuel consumption and suggested that having drivers pay for the real costs of highways "would involve imposing a combination of fuel taxes and per-mile charges."

But CBO's assessment of "costs" was broader than just those costs associated with maintaining highway systems.

"Any given driver’s highway use also imposes costs on other users, on nearby nonusers, on the environment, and on the economy in the form of congestion, risk of accidents, noise, emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants that affect local air quality, and dependence on foreign oil," CBO said.

On how to implement the idea, CBO said it is unclear how much it would cost to "install metering equipment in all of the nation's cars and trucks."

"Having the devices installed as original equipment under a mandate to vehicle manufacturers would be relatively inexpensive but could lead to a long transition; requiring vehicles to be retrofitted with the devices could be faster but much more costly, and the equipment could be more susceptible to tampering than factory-installed equipment might be," CBO said.

The report added that VMT taxes could be tracked and even collected at filling stations. "If VMT taxes were collected at the pump, each time fuel was purchased, information would be sent from a device in the vehicle to a device at the filling station," it said.

CBO also suggested different VMT tax rates might be assessed to different vehicles because heavier vehicles do more road damage, and rates might change depending on whether miles are driven at peak use times or during less congested hours.

CBO did acknowledge that privacy concerns may be a hurdle to implementing a VMT tax because electronic tracking of miles driven might provide too much personal information to the government. However, CBO noted that some have proposed restricting the information that would be transmitted to the government.

© 2011 The Hill:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


'Fannie Mae' meets 'Fannie Pave' in Washington

Most Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 402, National Infrastructure Development Bank Act 2011

Annualized Cost: $5 billion ($25 billion over five years)


National Taxpayer's Union Foundation
Copyright 2011

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) introduced H.R. 402 to establish a public bank, which "would supplement other federal infrastructure programs, and provide investment opportunities to create jobs, spur economic growth, and help build an infrastructure for the future." As a wholly-owned government corporation, such as the housing entity Fannie Mae, the bank's financing would be backed by the full faith and credit of the US government.

The National Infrastructure Development Bank would issue bonds to eligible lenders, including regional, state, and local entities, as well as commercial banks. Funds would be directed to transportation, environmental, energy, and telecommunications projects, each requiring a different set of standards to be considered by the four committees within the bank.

The bill authorizes $5 billion for each of the next five years. Funds would serve as the base capital from which the bank would issue bonds. In the President's budget proposal, a similar bank was outlined at the same $5 billion annual cost but instead over six years.

© 2011 National Taxpayer's Union Foundation:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"The toll road bills... are almost surely halfway through their legislative journey."

Law would allow private tollway deals for MoPac, U.S. 183

Legislature warming to long-term leases with private companies after spurning the approach in 2007 session.

Political Corruption


Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2011

Private toll road contracts, which fell out of legislative favor in 2007, are making a comeback this session.

And that includes at least the potential that two such projects in Austin, the MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) toll lanes and U.S. 183 in East Austin, could end up being financed, built and operated for decades by private firms.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who is carrying a bill that would allow such contracts on those two roads, said it is not necessarily an endorsement of that approach or an indication that the toll projects will end up in private hands.

"I want to make sure all of the tools are on the table," Watson said this week. "But it will be up to the local (metropolitan planning organization) to see if it gets used."

Right now, the local plan is for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, a toll agency that runs the 183-A tollway in Cedar Park, to build and operate the $248 million MoPac and $678 million U.S. 183 projects.

The Texas Department of Transportation would contribute $70 million in tax money to the MoPac project, which involves adding a fourth, tolled lane on each side between Lady Bird Lake and Parmer Lane, and $130 million to build express toll lanes and frontage roads on U.S. 183 between U.S. 290 in Northeast Austin and Texas 71 near the airport. The mobility authority, in theory, will raise the rest through borrowing.

But the authority's development plans in general were put on hold for at least two years when the 2008 credit crunch hit and it became difficult to borrow money. Carlos Lopez , TxDOT's Austin district engineer, said the ability to bring in the private sector would be an "insurance policy" if something goes awry with the TxDOT and mobility authority approach.

Watson's bill, which he filed March 11, has not yet been given a committee hearing. But four similar bills, allowing TxDOT to reach long-term leasing agreements with the private sector to build tollways in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, made a lightning-quick trip through the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Wednesday .

All were approved unanimously and then channeled to the Senate's queue of uncontested legislation. Such bills are generally approved en masse by the Senate with no debate, meaning that the toll road bills in effect are almost surely halfway through their legislative journey. Similar bills are pending in the House, including one by state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman , that lists a dozen tollway projects that would become eligible for what are generally called concession agreements.

The Austin-area roads, however, are not included in Phillips' legislation.

This renewed embrace of toll road concessions is a notable departure from 2007, when the public and lawmakers soured on the idea of private companies being in control for a half-century of tollways on the state highway system, and profiting from those leases. Such deals, particularly the participation in them of foreign companies, had become a high profile issue in the 2006 gubernatorial election, and the fervor continued into the new year and the legislative session.

The 2007 Legislature passed, and Gov. Rick Perry signed into law, a bill that put a moratorium on all but a handful of such potential deals. Authority for TxDOT to reach the long-term deals in general expired in September 2009, and the ability to reach agreements on the excepted roads from that 2007 law will die on Sept. 1 this year.

However, with state gas tax revenue stagnant and federal highways grants diminishing, TxDOT officials have said that sometime next year they will have no money available to approve construction of new road projects. That threat has lawmakers taking a fresh look at concessions, but on a case-by-case basis.

Anti-toll road activists on hand for the committee hearing Wednesday let legislators know that time has not diminished their distaste for private toll road agreements. Raising the gasoline tax would be a cheaper approach, said Don Dixon, a retired San Antonio mechanical engineer.

"We're going to these fringe processes" to fund highway construction, he said. "We're going to have a two-tier system: those who can afford to drive the toll roads, and those who can't."

Opponents were also disturbed that TxDOT planned to pour billions of public dollars into projects that likely will lead to private profits by operating companies, according to TxDOT figures.

In one of the four projects named in the bills approved Wednesday, TxDOT would supply almost one-third of the $3.7 billion cost for the North Tarrant Express in the Fort Worth area. In another case, the Texas 183 managed lanes project, also in Dallas-Fort Worth, TxDOT would cover the entire $1.3 billion construction cost. The operator would, in theory, be responsible for only the operating and maintenance costs to follow., 445-369

© 2011 Austin American-Statesman:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"Tolls are becoming so frequent in North Texas, drivers could rebel... Some drivers already are."

NTTA will keep big fines and I wonder: What am I missing?


By Michael Lindenberger
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2011

The NTTA board voted 8-1 to continue its policy of throwing the book at drivers who do not have toll tags and then ignore mailed bills. They will fine you $8.33 for every toll transaction if you ignore your bill for 45 days.

If you don't pay within 30 days of that date, the rate triples to $25 per transaction and the bill is sent to collections.

The policy has seemed harsh to many observers, though NTTA points out that it spends more to collect unpaid tolls each year than it receives in total fines.

I've pressed NTTA executive director Allen Clemson on this point, and maybe too far. It's not my place to say what the NTTA collection policy should be. But it has been frustrating to hear the staff defend repeatedly the policy with analogies and rationales that simply don't tell the whole story. There is either a breakdown in logic, or the staff is so constrained by its tight budget that it feels it can't change the policy without losing big chunks of revenue it badly needs.

I am writing this long piece about why I think the staff explanation just doesn't seem to make sense in part because I want feedback from the board members. And in part because I'd like to hear what you as readers and NTTA customers think about it, too.

NTTA paid big bucks to the state for Sam Rayburn Tollway rights, now it expects big bucks from toll violators.

Before I do that, let me add that I Clemson I get calls and emails from drivers who feel they're ignored or mistreated by NTTA, and he said he'd like to talk to every one of the cases, to make sure they are being treated fairly. He is confident his staff is doing just that.

If you send a brief summary of your experience -- either to my email, at -- or in the comments below, I will forward each one to Clemson. I am only going to forward the ones that include a full name and a valid method of contacting you. (Here are some folks who wrote last summer and again in December.)

Follow me to the jump to discuss what seems so confusing about NTTA's view of the fines.

Below I've bolded a central argument NTTA has advanced for why it charges customers a fine for every transaction they incur, sometimes totally hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Even the steep penalties don't cover NTTA's cost for collections. Therefore, Clemson and others said, the fines are legitimate.

It's true that NTTA pays more to collect unpaid tolls than it receives in fines. So in one sense, that statement is accurate, but only in a pretty narrow sense. On several other levels, it seems flawed.

NTTA says that sending out a late notice, to drivers who don't pay within 30 days, costs the authority $3.86. It loses money on that, because the flat late fee for the whole invoice -- no matter how many individual transactions are involved -- is just a $2.50.

If no payment is received in about 15 more days, NTTA sends out a violation notice, a step that costs NTTA $4.61 more per invoice. That means it has spent $8.47 so far to get delinquent customer to pay up.

To cover those costs, NTTA now adds an $8.33 fine for every transaction on that invoice, on top of the $2.50 late fee. Even if the invoice was for just one day's worth of tolls, it can easily include 10 transactions, as that is how many a round trip on the full length of the President George Bush Turnpike will incur.

So now, to use this example, NTTA's costs are $8.47 to send an invoice to a violator, and if he or she pays, NTTA gets the tolls owed, plus $2.50 late fee, plus $83.33 in fines. If the invoice covers less than 10 transactions, the fees are less, but if it covers severals days, or a week's worth, they are much much more.

This isn't covering costs, it's winning the lottery.

If folks still don't pay, the bill goes to collections, and NTTA's costs go up by another 90 cents, to $9.37. The driver who used the PGBT is now charged $250 in fines for that one day's worth of tolls, though some of those revenues if paid are shared with the collection agency.

NTTA looks at these same numbers and says it's losing money, and that as steep as its fines are they are actually less than what the toll scoffers are costing the agency. In a way, it has to say that, because state law says they can charge fines of up to $100 per transaction, but only to cover the costs of collections.

NTTA says the fines are inadequate to cover collection costs because when it figures up those totals, it adds all the costs incurred in collecting fees from every driver who doesn't pay. That's a big number. To find out what the per-person cost would be, it doesn't divide by the total number of those drivers. It divides by the number of drivers who pay, a far smaller group.

(In fact, NTTA says the average fine amount collected for each invoice sent after 30 days with a $2.50 fine is just 46 cents. The average fine collected per invoice with the $8.33 fine per transaction is just $6.46.)

NTTA says its not fair for paying customers it the authority ignores drivers who ignore their bills. Clemson says that would be asking paying customers to subside the users who don't pay.

But if they are using that rationale to justify the steep fees, shouldn't they just charge amounts that approximate what an individual's non-compliance costs them?

If you tell me it costs $1 each to send out late fees to 1,000 delinquents, I'll believe you when you tell me your collection costs are $1,000. But what if you tell me that only 10 percent of those people will pay, and therefore you are going to send every one of them an invoice with a $10 fee.
Actually, you say, you are going to charge that $10 fee not per invoice, but per transaction. So if a single that has a dozen transactions, your costs are about $1, but you are going to charge me $120.

I'm not going to feel very good about the system.

That is what NTTA is doing when it sends an invoice with $83 in fines attached to 10 transactions is says cost it about $8.47 to collect.

This isn't all academic. State law says NTTA can charge up to $100 per transaction fee for unpaid fees. Of course that statute was written when NTTA operated cash toll booths, and every violation required you to smash though a new toll gate. But it also says that the fine needs to be up to the amount to cover the collection costs. (

"The department may impose and collect the administrative fee, so as to recover the cost of collecting the unpaid toll, not to exceed $100." Sec. 228.055(b)

Our collection costs are much higher than what we receive fees.

The problem with this basic assumption is that ignores history. Until a few years ago, NTTA collected all tolls in cash, at toll booths. Violations were much rarer.

To eliminate many tens of millions of dollars in annual staffing costs -- we're talking phasing out hundreds of jobs -- NTTA proposed converting to an all-electronic toll system, a process still underway.

The move involved many benefits beyond the staffing reduction. It allowed the NTTA drivers to maintain higher average speeds, which pleases the drivers, and helps NTTA accommodate more traffic. That's something it can use to lenders to justify higher debt.

But it involved costs, too. The capital construction costs to convert the plazas has been in the millions. They also had to buy millions of dollars in cameras. They also expected that cameras wouldn't be able to accurately identify every customer. (The had no idea how many of these cases there would be, however.)

Another costs was it was going to stem from the collection efforts. You got to mail the bills out to non toll tag users, and track down the folks who don't pay.

But if the change has resulted in significant savings, expectations of increased traffic, and generally more efficient operations, is it really fair to say that every penny that the agency must spend in collections is the fault of the folks who don't pay? After all, NTTA made it much easier to use their roads without paying for them, it seems to me at least an arguable proposition that NTTA should assume some portion of their collections costs as simply cost of doing business in a manner that eliminated the cash toll booths.

Ignoring your toll bills is no different than other criminal activities, and should be punished sharply.

This is kind of speaking out of the other side of the mouth, in that while NTTA says the purpose of the fines are compensatory, not punitive, they also are quick to point out that they really are no different than criminal sanctions of bad behavior.

Allen Clemson told me, for instance: Listen, walk into Wal-mart and steal a six pack on Monday and you are going to be charged with a crime. Do it again on Tuesday, you get another charge. Thursday makes three, etc.

Or this. Jump on a DART train without a ticket, and you're cited for fare evasion. Do it again later that day, and you'll get another citation, and if you do it every day for a week you could be charged five times.

Ditto for writing a bad check every day, or any other criminal act.

But these aren't real equivalents. Not even close.

A real equivalent would be if you were charged with six counts of shoplifting because the six pack had six cans. Or if the city wrote you an entirely new parking ticket for every hour you left your car next to an expired meter. Five hours late, equals five parking tickets. Or if you faced five counts of check kiting because your $50 bounced check bought you five items from the grocery.

Others at NTTA have said, look we know the fines are steep, but what do you think your credit card company will do if you miss your payment. What about if you miss your mortgage payment?

Both of those entities would charge a fee, but probably just one for each month.

The only equivalent system in the world, as far as I can tell, is the way banks will charge you $32 (or whatever) for every time a debit purchase is approved when your checking account balance is too low to cover it. If you have 50 cents in your account, you could buy 10 items at $1 each, and face charges of $320. That's similarly disproportionate.

But even that situation -- which I don't need to remind you has seen so much scrutiny (the word rapacious is kicked about) by Congress and consumer groups that even big banks are reconsidering -- is different in a way than NTTA's policy.

You have to make 10 purchases to earn those fees, whereas you can rack up four or five toll transactions in a single drive from one end of the road to the other.

Maybe NTTA just needs the revenue so badly, it is willing to throw the book at customers who don't pay, soaking not all the delinquents, but just the ones they can catch. It doesn't seem like a policy that is in keeping with the often stated concerns of its chairman Paul Wageman, who worries that tolls are becoming so frequent in North Texas, drivers could rebel.

Some drivers already are.

But in any case, NTTA board members have voted, and the policy review has been completed. You're stuck with it for a while. I can't help but wonder if there are fairer ways to discourage freeloaders without sending bills to some for thousands of dollars in fines just for ignoring a month or two's worth of toll bills.

Or maybe the logical disconnect is all mine. Tell me what you think.

© 2011 The Dallas Morning News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Rick Perry fined for failing to report rental income from College Station house

Perry Fined $1,500 by Ethics Commission


Texas Tribune
Copyright 2011

Gov. Rick Perry was fined $1,500 by the Texas Ethics Commission for failing to report rental income from a house in College Station, and for filing incomplete information regarding debts on the same property, in personal financial statements required by state law.

"This was an inadvertent error, and as soon as it was realized, the governor’s personal financial statement was amended to include those items," Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said in a statement. "The Commission has since assessed a fine, which has been paid."

Perry did not, as the law requires, report income in excess of $500 from rent. According to the Ethics Commission, the total undisclosed income from 2009 and 2010 was between $7,000 and $29,995. Perry also did not disclose all of the debts and the names of banks holding notes and leases on the property.

After examining the facts and "considering the sanction necessary to deter future violations," the commission imposed a $1,500 penalty. By agreeing to the fine, Perry neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing.

The commission was responding to complaints filed by the Texas Democratic Party last year. Those complaints followed reports from The Associated Press on the College Station home and on homestead exemptions claimed there by the governor.

© 2011 Texas Tribune:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"It is truly disappointing that so many elected officials believe they can hoodwink their constituents by empty rhetoric on property rights."

Eminent Domain legislation inches toward reform, but still falls short


Terri Hall
Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom (TURF)
Copyright 2011

AUSTIN—Property rights activists and members of the Property Rights Coalition of Texas are commending members of the House Land and Resource Management Committee for helping to protect property rights of Texans today. Committee members voted unanimously to pass an amended version of SB 18, which includes provisions to help establish due process, ensure landowners are adequately compensated for their property, and makes private interests and condemning entities more accountable to landowners.

“On behalf of the Property Rights Coalition of Texas, I would like to thank Chairman Oliveira and Vice Chair Kleinschmidt for their leadership on this bill and all members of the committee for voting to adopt the Kleinschmidt/ Oliveira amendments,” said Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) and co-founder of PRCT.

While PRCT is pleased that the Land and Resources made some improvements to the bill, coalition members acknowledge that to there are still significant changes that must be made to the bill as it heads to the House floor for debate.

PRCT is calling on lawmakers to include strong language that defines critical terms, which will help enforce and strengthen landowner protections in the bill. They are pushing lawmakers to adopt the language “necessary public use” in the bill, which will protect landowners from future eminent domain abuses and profit-driven land grabs for economic development purposes.

”We’re glad to see the Committee made some positive changes to SB 18 on the remedy side, but to truly protect property rights, the bill needs to say any taking must be NECESSARY for that public use,” says Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and co-founder of the PRCT.

Cubria echoed that sentiment: “The easiest, simplest thing to do to protect property owners from unfair land grabs would be to add the word necessary to the definition of public use. Without the strict definition for ‘necessary public use,’ private corporations can condemn a landowner’s property, build a private toll road and claim that they did so in the name of public use. After all, the Trans-Texas Corridor was packaged as a ‘Community Development Association.’”

“We are thankful for the genuine concern expressed by House Land and Resource Management Committee members over the lack of property rights protections embedded in SB 18, but it is truly disappointing that so many elected officials believe they can hoodwink their constituents by empty rhetoric on property rights,” said Marc Scribner, land-use and transportation policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank based in Washington, D.C. and PRCT member. “Legislators still have the opportunity to do the right thing, which is to reign in the government’s power to condemn private property for dubious reasons. Hopefully, they will heed the wishes of the public and support amendments that offer meaningful property rights protections. Otherwise, they will be turning a blind eye to the founding principles of this country: individual liberty and limited government.”

© 2011 TURF:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Monday, March 21, 2011

"Until legislators admit they have a problem - that they've been misleading taxpayers for years...they'll only continue to play this problem forward."

Your money now belongs to the state, but don't worry - it's not a tax


by Harold Cook
Letters from Texas
Copyright 2011

Somebody tell me what I'm missing.

Today, Lt. Governor Dewhurst will appoint a subcommittee led by Senator Robert Duncan to look at "non-tax revenue" sources to help balance the budget. I know you haven't read this anywhere because the Republicans in charge are pretending it doesn't exist, but we have this small matter of this teeny tiny microscopic $27,000,000,000.00 budget shortfall. But don't worry, we're not like California (we're worse).

So, I wondered, what exactly is "non-tax revenue"? Presumably, under the definition I've been able to derive from listening to Republicans discuss it, is money or other assets the state has squirreled away in various places, currently out of reach of budget writers trying to make ends meet. Also, they say fees will also be a part of the discussion of this subcommittee. Presumably, they won't be reducing any.

Don't buy into the spin - they're playing with words again.

With the exception of some admittedly-vast real estate holdings we inherited when we beat Mexico in a quaint little war that produced some dandy songs, several iconic old buildings, and at couple of bad movies, and the income and interest earned on that real estate and other interest income, unless I'm missing something, every dime the state of Texas now holds is money that once belonged to you, and now belongs to them. How is that "non-tax?"

If you used to own it, and Texas government made you hand it over, it's a tax.

Just because you already handed it over, probably for some unrelated, and quite possibly very noble, purpose, and the state didn't spend it for the purpose they promised you they would, doesn't mean it's not a tax. We call that a lie, and we don't even accept behavior like that from our own children.

And the state has been lying to Texans for a very long time on all those "fees." They call them "fees," you see, to avoid using the word "tax," but if you're the guy being charged the fee, I bet it feels just like a tax to you, doesn't it?

Here's how they lie: they create a tax, and tell Texans that they're collecting it for a specific purpose, which sounds hunky-dorey to the public, so they very quickly go back to sleep. The public pays this tax month after month, year after year, without even noticing, hidden in your phone bill or utility bill or paid by a business that passes it through to you. The state collects the money for years and years, spending little or nothing of it on what they promised you they would. The result are special funds held by the state worth hundreds of millions of dollars, which they use to certify the budget, so they can pretend to be fiscally responsible.

I'm sure it started out innocently enough, to get out of what budget writers believed at the time to be a short-term cash crunch. But like most drug use, it has gotten completely out of hand, until now, the little fibs have become huge lies.

Now they want to call it "non-tax revenue." But what that really means is, they already collected the money from you, and have for years. It was a tax then, but now that they have the money, they'd rather pretend they just found it in the street somehow.

I actually believe that this "non-tax revenue subcommittee" move might be a step in the right direction for making ends meet in this immediate budget crisis. After all, teachers need to teach, doctors need to doc, potholes need to be filled, that sort of thing. It costs money to serve Texans, and they'll have to get it from somewhere. Better to sweep it out of those useless special funds than to make public education a luxury or throw grandma out of the nursing home. Cuts alone won't get 'em to $27,000,000,000.00.

But, like a drug problem, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. And until legislators admit they have a problem - that they've been misleading taxpayers for years, using financial shell games to cover up the structural deficit - they'll only continue to play this problem forward.

This may be the very worst time for state budget writers to solve these huge problems, because the solutions cost money they don't have. But it is the perfect time to absolutely insist that they lay out the plan for how the Republicans in charge will stop lying to taxpayers about their money. If legislators with conscience fail to insist on it now, they're missing a huge opportunity to get Texas back on track financially.

How is that not the true conservative view? What am I missing?

© 2011 Letters from Texas:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE