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Statement by Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), on the TxDOT Sunset Bill and the House floor amendments:
“Rarely are efforts to undermine the popular will as clear as they have been during the 82nd Legislative session, especially given the litany of irresponsible private toll road legislation passed by both the House and Senate and amended to the TxDOT Sunset bill, which is supposed to reform the disgraced state agency.
"House Transportation Committee Chairman Larry Phillips' has been the worst offender, filing some of the most radical legislation the state has seen since the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) was announced by Governor Perry. Chairman Phillips is sneaking his radical bills through as amendments to the TxDOT Sunset bill as well. Chairman Phillips' legislation will turn the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) into a slush fund and will expand government by creating 8 regional tolling authorities that will have the same powers as TxDOT without enhancing transparency. Chairman Phillips is also pushing to subsidize the travel costs of the unelected board members of the tolling authorities, using taxpayer revenue despite the financial crisis.
"The public has protested privatized toll roads for years now, though nearly a decade after Governor Perry first announced plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), lawmakers are pushing through legislation to advance at least 20 private toll road deals in Texas. Not a single piece of legislation passed by lawmakers includes any meaningful safeguards to protect the taxpayers of Texas from the serious downsides of past privatized road deals. Furthermore, none of the private toll road bills passed this session protect against private toll road companies seizing ordinary Texans’ land for economic development purposes nor does the eminent domain "reform" bill both chambers passed.
"Cloaked in the guise of local options for districts and counties facing transportation shortfalls and stagnate revenues, these private toll road deals are nothing more than taxpayer-backed schemes which all Texans will subsidize.
"Lawmakers are pushing through legislation they do not understand and have not read. They are typically misrepresenting the deals to citizens. As a result, the taxpayers of Texas will be saddled with billions of dollars of debt, which they will pay off through rising tolls for half a century which is not collected for public use or future reinvestment into the state's infrastructure needs.
"Lawmakers must strip out the floor amendments added by Chairman Phillips and other members of the House or risk severe backlash by the people of Texas."
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