Friday, September 23, 2005

 

Building Steam

We had a great meeting last night and we're gearing up to defeat Propositions 1 & 9 which will be on the November 8 ballot (see info below). Commissioner Tommy Adkisson came to lend his support and introduce his new appointee to the Alamo RMA (or ARMA - our tolling authority), Mr. Connie English. Mr. English will be a terrific ally and help bring some accountability to this process. So far, the ARMA has been rubber stamping TxDOT's toll plans without question like we've seen at the MPO (Transportation Policy Board). That time has come to an end.

Commissioner Paul Elizondo and his opponent for Precinct 2, Enrique Barrera, were also invited to our meeting to address constituents concerns with this toll plan, but neither candidate came. Tolls will be front and center for these candidates especially considering Hwy 151 and Bandera Rd (SH 16) were just added to the ARMA's toll projects last week. If you're in County Commissioner Precinct 2, you need to contact these gentleman and ask them where they stand on tolls and if they're supportive of an independent review: lalcocer@co.bexar.tx.us (we'll get contact information for Mr. Barrera ASAP). FYI, the extension of Wurzbach Pkwy and its interchange at 281 along with toll lanes on I-35 have also been added to the list. It's a toll, toll, toll for San Antonio! If they haven't already, tolls are coming to a road near YOU!

PR BLITZ
Many of you have seen TxDOT handing out surveys along 281/1604 these past few weeks. Well, it's our turn to get our message out. Email Terri to get a PDF of the flyer to hand out at terrih@gvtc.com. Contact Richard or Marty Bravo to sign-up for shifts at: rbravo@satx.rr.com or (210) 497-1715.

TRY TO WEAR RED SHIRTS AND HAVE ONE OF OUR "NO FREEWAY TOLLS" yard signs out there when you're handing out fliers. We'd like at least 3 people a shift to hand out fliers during rush hour for the next 3 weeks at Evans Rd. and 281! If you or the one of the team members on your shift don't already have a yard sign to put out, the Bravos will have a community sign for your crew to pick-up.

Vote "NO" on Propositions 1 & 9
PROP 1:
Prop 1 allows an open ended corporate subsidy fund. Taxpayers will pay to move private corporation rail lines into the Trans Texas Corridor.

The state debt commitment would also be open-ended, with no limit on the amount of state bonds that could be issued from this new fund. By amending the Constitution to authorize the creation of this fund, the state could commit itself to massive debt for generations. Private corporations will profit from this taxpayer giveaway that help the Trans Texas Corridor move forward.

TxDOT deals primarily with state highways and has very little authority over railroad matters. TxDOT should use its resources to carry out its primary functions that relate to the planning, construction, and maintenance of the state’s highways. The railroad industry no longer is state-regulated, and state government should not involve itself in that industry's investment decisions. Private corporations will profit from this

PROP 9:
Prop 9 allows unelected, unaccountable Tolling Authority board members extended term limits. Current 2 year term limits would expand to 6 years for Regional Mobility Authorities. These appointed people are allowed to privatize and toll our freeways - they will set the toll rates for roads we've already paid for.

A two-year term of office requires more frequent assessments of the board members job performance. Six-year terms are not necessary to carry out the functions of the authority since the staff or employees of an authority would do so regardless of the length of the directors’ terms.

The Constitution generally limits terms of office for appointed boards to two years to guard against possible conflicts that can accompany long terms and to ensure sufficient turnover in board membership. Comptroller of Texas has reported the RMAs create "Double taxation without accountability", and that the RMA's loose management practices cost all Texans more. NOT surprisingly, Comptroller also found favoritism and self-enrichment as board members gave contracts (without bids) to their friends and their own companies (http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/ctrma05/). RMA boards should be required to abide by the standard provided in the Constitution that limits the terms of members of such boards to two years.

READ MORE ABOUT PROP 1 & 9 HERE IN THE HOUSE REPORT (First hyperlink at the top): http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/hrofr/frame9.htm

TxDOT is BIG Money
By Bill Barker
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is big business. In fiscal year 2004, it took in $6.1 billion in taxes and fees. If it were a private corporation, it would rank 304th in the Fortune 500, ahead of companies like Southwest Airlines ($5.9B), Monsanto ($4.9B), and Starbucks ($4.1B).

Unlike a private corporation which depends on attracting customers, TxDOT is a governmental monopoly without competition. It gets its revenues from both user taxes and fees as well as tax subsidies from non-users. Approximately one-third of TxDOT revenue comes from state excise taxes on gasoline, diesel and other motor fuels. The tax that most Texans are aware of is the state gasoline excise tax which is 20-cents per gallon. Twenty of the 50 states have a gasoline excise tax less than 20-cents per gallon.

Texas taxes diesel fuel at the same rate as gasoline even though large, heavy trucks – usually powered with diesel fuel – cause most of the wear and tear on our roads. According to the Federal Highway Administration, large tractor trailer trucks are responsible for road costs on a vehicle-mile basis that are more than 10 times that of automobiles. To achieve more equity, 15 states charge a higher excise tax on diesel fuel than on gasoline.

In 2003 (the most recent year for which comparison data is available), TxDOT was second only to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in terms of total disbursements. In that year, Caltrans spent $9.3B while TxDOT spent $6.8B. But, California has more population than Texas, so Caltrans only spent $259 per person compared to TxDOT’s $306 per person.

In addition, Caltrans spent 23.7% of its budget on local streets and roads as well as grants to local governments while TxDOT only spent 6.5% of its budget on local roads. As a result, TxDOT spent $286 for every man, woman and child in Texas only on its state owned roads. This is $88 per person more than Caltrans spent on its state road system.

In Texas, cities and counties are expected to come up with their own funding for local roads as well as to contribute to state road projects. Two cents of every dollar spent by TxDOT comes from sources such as local property and sales taxes. San Antonio is the only Texas city with a specific general sales tax dedicated only to state road projects.

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