November 17, 2006

You're dumb, Ben Wear

Man, do y'all ever do any substantive research at the A-AS? First you endorse Perry who now you have to call out on something he did BEFORE you endorsed him. Did y'all just not do your homework on this one?

Now you have Ben Wear writing articles on toll roads, a subject about which he clearly knows little. In fact, he knows so little he doesn't even know the right questions to ask. For one, what would it take to replace the revenue from toll roads? Note I wrote REVENUE, not profit. The paper, for an organization so interested in it, has done comparatively little research on this. I'm wondering if somewhere Ben has a financial incentive in all this... he's certainly been writing a lot about tolls with nary a word of it criticism. That's interesting because there really isn't anything good that can be written about toll roads.

I work in finance. Unlike our electeds, I know how to get a transaction structured so that it makes the most sense for all concerned. How exactly does funding a project off of the smallest possible income base make sense? It doesn't. It's like giving a couple a loan and then requiring one of them to stop working. By concentrating the funding base you are increasing substantially the cost to each consumer. In the case of someone in Round Rock, the difference is $4.83 per day. If the funds raised from tolls and the funds raised from the gax tax were put side by side (in terms of consumer cost per gallon), you'd be looking at this:

$5.00 VS $0.17

Keep in mind, when you look at this and realize just how much you're being screwed, that 'tolls are cheaper', 'tolls make sense' and 'it's the only way we can get the roads built'. It's the last one that's really disingenous as the reason these come on so quick is that bonds are sold up front, and the service on them is assured by the tolls. So all the money is available to construct the road, at the outset. There is absolutely no reason why those bonds have to be backed with toll revenue... gas taxes would work just as well. See? It's pretty cool when you demystify the 'new and innovative' financing that has been touted as making toll roads possible. That's right... it's nothing more than one of the oldest financial assets in use worldwide, bonds.

You also should consider that the 17 cent number for the gas tax is really a bullshit number. It'll actually need to be MUCH lower. That's just the one that TXDoT uses. Even it makes tolls look bad.

We've been told and Ben reiterates several times the tired talking about how long it will take to get these roads built if taxes are used. I guess he wasn't thinking about backing the bonds with another revenue stream. Then again, it appears from reading his inept work that he wasn't thinking about much of anything.

Bottom line, while tolls don't really bother me too much, it's how disingenous the sales job on this has been. Lest you think me purely partisan, there are some (inexplicably) pro-toll Democrats as well (Kirk, we love you, but you're on the wrong side of this).

Ben, you need to actually dig in and do a little research. Tolls were explored DECADES ago and passed over for the gas tax because of one thing... it's the fairest, most equitable way to broadly spread the burden for building roads that, whether we drive on them daily or not, help us all in a number of ways.

Would y'all quit with the toll roads? I'm sick of hearing and reading so much about it from so many people who clearly don't know what they are talking about.

(tip 'o the hat to Somervell County Salon)

Posted by mcblogger at November 17, 2006 10:06 AM

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