July 10, 2009

Ben Wear asks a question

Ben Wear has a column in the Statesman asking what happened to the privatization/toll agenda we've been fighting over this session. See, what was so easy during the session became an unsupportable nightmare in the special.

Here's his take...

Remember, this same committee voted for the same changes to the law about seven weeks ago.

Why was it a safe vote in May and a dangerous vote in July?

Back then there were thousands of bills up for consideration, and thus the attention of the public and the press was fragmented. Transportation insiders, anti-toll activists and the few transportation writers for major dailies were paying attention to this. But most people weren't.

Now, with only three subjects on the special session call, and no controversy on two of them, that left the entire focus on this one bill. On legislators voting to allow private toll roads, potentially operated by (and sending profits eventually to) foreign companies like Spanish toll road builder Cintra. On lawmakers in effect undoing a moratorium on most such contracts that they voted for in 2007.

So, why not just bring it up and vote against it? Well, that could then be used against lawmakers later by an opponent saying they'd voted against badly needed roads. And it would be a vote against Gov. Rick Perry, who wanted to extend the authority for private toll roads. A vote against Perry, who has enthusiastically wielded his veto pen through the years.

Of course, presumably somewhere amid all this there is the "right" position to take on this issue — even if what is deemed right might vary from lawmaker to lawmaker — rather than the "safe" position.

He just left out one important detail... there was only one real anti-privatization action group that actually mobilized people during the session to email and call. That was TURF. The others, if they bothered to care at all, did little. Which was about what they did in 2007.

What happened this session was the result of Terri Hall and Hank Gilbert, a Republican and Democrat working together to force the Lege to kill this disastrous policy. Who knew it was so easy to burn up phones when you have hundreds of thousands of Texans on the same side.

If 39% and the Republicans are serious about Moving Texas Forward, then they're going to have to get comfortable with the fact that the only option is public funding through an indexed fuels tax. We can toll in limited situations, where it makes sense provided the toll goes away once the financing is paid. But no mas with the privatization. It's just not a good deal for Texans.

Will 39% and the Republicans still try to sell privatization this cycle? Oh, that would really would be too much to ask... especially if it's the guise of 'building the roads Texans need'. Please, God, let it be so!


Posted by mcblogger at July 10, 2009 08:51 AM

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