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Third time's a charm: Lawmakers finally pass road funding bill

From: William E. G.
Sent on: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 11:54 PM

TURF email header
TURF Alert - Please Take Action Below
STOP DOUBLE TAX TOLLS!
Dear Bill,

>> Third time's a charm: Lawmakers finally pass road funding bill

Read Terri's column about it.

More detail below.

*****************
>> Not too late to submit comments on I-35 toll project 

Submit public comment opposing tolls on I-35 here.

More info on the project below.

*****************

>> Senator Donna Campbell still misleading constituents about her freeway-to-tollway bill

More detail below.
 
IN THIS ISSUE
NEW Truth Be Tolled film. Watch the trailer!
Lawmakers finally pass road funding bill, goes to voters in 2014
Submit comments opposing tolls on I-35
Campbell repeatedly flip-flops on anti-toll promises
Credit bureaus leery of toll roads with driving down
TRUTH BE TOLLED
New movie, new trailer
Thanks to the award-winning filmmaker William Molina's years of hard work, he's delivered another cinematic masterpiece in the Truth Be Tolled series about the fight to keep tolls off US 281.

Watch the new movie trailer here.

Be looking for event info on the screening of the new documentary film capturing the citizens' fight to keep US 281 TOLL-FREE!
CAPITOL UPDATE:
Postcards from the lege...
THIRD SPECIAL SESSION ALREADY OVER

Lawmakers convened yesterday. The Texas House debated the road funding bills for nearly 5 hours. Texans overwhelmingly wanted lawmakers to end diversions of gas taxes and dedicate 100% of the road taxes we ALREADY COLLECT (like the vehicle sales tax) to highways, but the Texas Senate did it's usual cram down and wouldn't accept any EXISTING revenues going to roads or any proposals other than their own. I lost count of how many times the house bill's proponents said the 'senate won't agree to' this or that amendment by House members. A frustrated Rep. Senfronia Thompson even opined into the mic: "I'm sick and tired of what the senate wants. Are we not a bicameral form of government?"

Senate leaders like Tommy Williams and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst want tax hikes to pay for roads, along with Speaker Joe Straus. But lawmakers weren't gonna go for a tax hike. So the Senate went for a straight raid of the oil & gas severance tax as a stop gap measure for now. 

The final version does have adequate protection of the state's emergency fund (the Rainy Day Fund), among other pro-taxpayers provisions like forcing TxDOT to find $100 million in efficiencies in its operations to help pay down its mounting debt. But it also has an amendment that diverts Texas Mobility Fund money to ports. So once again, another NEW diversion of road funds is contained in the bill.

We clearly need new leadership in this state.

More sneaky moves
The Constitutional Amendment will not come before voters until November of 2014 in another sneaky move by lawmakers. They worry about voters approving two Rainy Day raids in the same election (a $2 billion raid of the Rainy Day Fund for a water plan to aid developers in heisting rural communities' water, already experiencing shortages, to ship it to urban areas). So they pushed the road funding Constitutional amendment election to 2014 - which will cost taxpayers more by holding TWO elections.

So expect some slick ad campaigns to convince you to vote for the water funding this November.

Read Terri's article on the final bill here.
SUBMIT COMMENTS OPPOSING
TOLLS on I-35
Many of you may remember the shenanigans being played with Bexar County roads in order to drive more traffic to the failing foreign-owned SH 130 tollway. In the fall of 2011, I wrote this column about TxDOT's plans to dual designate parts of I-35, 410 & I-10 as SH 130 (as a bypass to I-35), taking people out I-10 to Seguin with no way north but Cintra's expensive tollway.

Fast forward to today...
TxDOT held two hastily called Open Houses on this scheme (not very well publicized, barely a week's notice - a way to push it through unnoticed) called the I-35 Bypass Study jointly with another plan to add toll lanes to I-35 from downtown, then out to the county line (and eventually all the way up to DFW). The MPO's current plan shows I-35 with not only toll lanes, but one of these P3/CDAs privately-operated toll roads, from downtown all the way north to the Comal County line.

MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!
SPREAD THE WORD TO THOSE WHO USE I-35

>> Submit public comment opposing tolls on I-35 & any bypass plan, which is an incentive to drive traffic to Cintra's tollway here.

(Be sure to include your full name & address and ask for confirmation of receipt of comments. The email goes to TxDOT's consultant handling the public comments)

See the comments we submitted here.
Campbell misleads constituents
Okay with adding toll lanes to 281
Senator Donna Campbell ran as anti-toll and replaced a pro-toll incumbent, Jeff Wentworth. It was bad enough during the session when Campbell caved to tolls on Loop 1604, now she's caving to tolls on 281, too. In a talk to constituents in Comal County, she defended the plans to add toll lanes to 281 and misled them about her bill, SB 1029, that keeps FIVE loopholes in the law allowing TxDOT to convert FREE lanes into TOLL lanes (a DOUBLE TAX).

Now she's sending out her newsletter with the same deceptive claims.

Campbell specifically claimed her bill prohibited TxDOT from tolling an existing free lane, under ANY circumstances. Read the legislation yourself here. Yet she's well aware that her bill still contains broad loopholes that gives TxDOT permission to do just that like:

(1)  the commission by order designated the highway or segment as a toll project before the contract to construct the highway or segment was awarded

That basically means ANY free lane could be tolled as long as they do it before they go to contract (which is the LAST step in any road project)! And there's four more loopholes similar to this one.

(3)  the project was designated as a toll project in a plan or program of a metropolitan planning organization on or before September 1, 2005;

This loophole SPECIFICALLY allows ALL current planned toll roads for Bexar County to convert FREE lanes into TOLL lanes since they were all in an MPO plan prior to September of 2005 (MPO voted to include them in July 2004 - done by one of Campbell's opponents Elizabeth Ames Jones who paid the price for it - now Campbell's just as guilty in moving these toll roads forward).

The loophole that was removed from statute was the one that called for a public vote!

Campbell's well aware of the loopholes since we met at length with her staff and spoke to her personally asking her NOT to allow the bill to move forward with all these loopholes. She ignored the flood of calls from constituents, too, and passed the bill anyway.

Defended transit/HOV lanes
She also defended the HOV transit toll lanes controlled by Via & the ATD Board since they "paid for" the lanes. This is NOT true. While ATD sales tax money is paying for some expansion on 281, the ATD sales tax is split into two parts - half goes to transit and half goes to roads. The portion being used to expand 281 is the ROAD money, not transit money, yet it's putting the transit board in charge of the toll rates. In Houston, where the transit board is allowed to control toll rates on HOV lanes that are now toll lanes, too, the cost to commuters is up to $10 a trip! Read more here.

In addition, the HOV transit lanes are not NEW lanes, they convert EXISTING paid for FREE lanes into HOV TOLL transit lanes. Thanks to her bill, SB 1029, TxDOT and the ATD Board will get away with it!

Property taxes & fee hike  
for Bexar County TOLL roads
Campbell also ran on eliminating property tax. In fact, her opponent Jeff Wentworth did attack ads against her for it. She sent a mailer defending it. When confronted about her vote for SB 1110 that allows property taxes (and sales tax) to build/subsidize toll roads (a DOUBLE TAX), she back-tracked and claimed she didn't run on eliminating property tax and asked how would we fund all the things property taxes pays for (when her own mailer explained a revenue neutral tax swap with sales tax).

Campbell ran on a no new tax pledge yet she also brokered a deal and eventually voted for HB 1573, which is a $10 vehicle registration fee hike (considered a tax hike by the Governor & GOP Chairman) for Bexar County WITHOUT A PUBLIC VOTE trigger, giving that new revenue specifically to the TOLL AUTHORITY who will use it to bond against to prop-up area toll roads (281, 1604, and more) that can't pay for themselves with toll users.
 
So thanks to Campbell, her constituents will have their property taxes, sales taxes, and vehicle registration fee hike all go to pay for building toll roads -- yet you'll be charged a toll, too, to actually use the roads paid for with a litany of tax money. All are DOUBLE taxation, which she said repeatedly she's against

Stay tuned....we recorded the whole exchange and we're working on getting the sound files up so you can hear it for yourself!
BE IN THE KNOW...
Subscribe to Terri's columns in the Examiner and be the first to know the very latest on all things transportation. Just click on 'subscribe' from the link below...

>> Third time's a charm: Texas lawmakers finally pass road funding bill

Read Terri's column here.
HEADLINES...
>> TRIBUNE: TX lawmakers pass road bill, adjourn session   

Read more here.
 
>> FL Gov quietly appoints members to board overseeing P3s as required by new law that expands program 
 
Read more here
 
>> Arizona group seeks to put ban on tolling existing roads on the ballot

Read more here.

>> Credit agencies leery of tolls in light of less driving
-- It's a no brainer, the price of gas is forcing Americans to drive less. They have less money to pay tolls, too.
 
Read more here
Support the work of TURF TODAY!

The Texas Legislature
is STILL in session...help TURF fight for YOU!
 
 
Please consider a donation to support the work Texas TURF does on behalf of taxpayers. We need the resources to STOP tolls on existing roads & to get pro-taxpayer transportation policies and reforms in place.
 
With HUNDREDS of toll projects planned in Texas, EVERYONE will be effected by these NEW taxes!
 
Donate online using PayPal  here.
 
Or send in a check to:
TURF
PO Box 29254
San Antonio, TX[masked]  
____________________________
 
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
 
 
 
"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men."
                         -- John Adams
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom | PO Box 29254 | San Antonio | TX | [masked]


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