Read todays STAR TELEGRAM article, "Craddick's committee leaders defect".
Did you ever see the "Ice Age" movie? Where scrat makes a tiny crack in the dam, and soon the cracks grow and the dam breaks?
The Gov. race, with Mr. 39% (Perry), revealed a number of growing cracks and showed a weakness with the bullies at the top. IF arm twisting, toll loving Craddick is dumped, and replaced with the independent maverick Jim Pitts, this could be great for us. In 2005, Jim Pitts voted in the minority FOR the Trans Texas Corridor 2 Year Moratorium HB 3363 and AGAINST toll proliferation House Bill 2650. Keep your fingers crossed.
The Fort Worth Telegram hits the nail on the head with it's article today called "State needs lessons in arithmetic". It's the unbelievably real story about how the state of Texas spent 30.8 cents on postage to mail Don Ferguson a bill for 25 cents for driving on a toll road.
This toll road, SH 121 in Dallas, is the first Texas freeway, 100% funded with our tax dollars, to be shifted to a toll road. It has no toll booths, as it takes a picture of your plate and sends you a bill, if you don't have a TxTag. The article states:
"The 72-year-old military retiree was befuddled last week when an invoice for 25 cents arrived from the Texas Department of Transportation, which began charging tolls Dec. 1 on Texas 121 in Denton County. The charge won't cover the 30.8 cents metered postage the state paid to send him the bill.
"I thought about taping three dimes to the invoice and asking them to send me change," said Ferguson, who drove on the road -- which has no toll booths -- while visiting a son Dec. 2 in Frisco. "But I've decided I'm going to send them a $1 check, so my account will have a credit of 75 cents."
Drivers with no TollTag have their license plates photographed, and a bill is mailed to them. For some reason, the automated system didn't charge Ferguson a customary $1 handling fee to cover postage. Agency officials are trying to figure out why.
"I got a bill for 25 cents, too," department spokesman Mark Ball said, adding that at least four other drivers have complained."
*U P D A T E D*
In today’s Statesman article, “Watson calls for delay in toll vote”, there is mention of a Kirk Watson email sent to current and upcoming CAMPO board members. The very interesting email confirms Kirk Watson is working behind the scenes for the CAMPO chair position. In the article, Senator Kirk Watson says:
"The people of Central Texas need to be treated like valued constituents, not just resources to be harvested."Wow, it sounds like Watson is going to keep our freeways free...right?
Don’t be fooled. There is no Central Texas Politico smoother and more dangerous than Senator Kirk Watson. Read my recent blog article about how Watson has already diverted tens of millions of City of Austin transportation bond dollars into toll roads.
For weeks, special interests are working hard behind the scenes to “fix” Phase II tolls. They are setting up Watson to head CAMPO, and cutting the number of CAMPO board members from 23 to 18 or 15. The special interests can control 15-18 elected officials (hand picked to stay) easier than 23.
Reliable sources within CAMPO say the tricky back room deal is this: 1) Watson and others will present a new Phase II plan. 2) The new plan will remove “toll lanes” and this will be sold as a victory for the people. 3) The new plan will include “managed lanes”.
But this con is as simple as a two bit parlor trick. What is the "reveal", you ask?
"Managed lane" is marketing term that replaces the unpopular word "Toll". Read more in the comment area.
The Muckraker's Xmas gift to YOU!
Exclusive online video
with Mr. 39%!
12/29/06 UPDATE: Mr. 39% scene had to be cut from the next online video, but there's plenty of great stuff in there. Also, now scheduled to be released 1st week of Jan.
Watch it here first!
Happy Holidays, see you next week...in the meantime,
check out the past Muckraker articles and the archives
(and the links to the right).
I'll be adding stuff to the comments area below.
You can do the same.
At least 3,000 people and dozens of government agencies get Free bureaucratic Toll Tags in Dallas. $10 Million dollars worth of free toll road driving, over the years says WFAA TV News. The Bureaucrats want our families to pay full price while the tollers get it free.
The tollers, like kings and queens, get it free, while our families pay more. Who works for who again?
When News 8 reviewed recent records, they discovered active toll tags for former elected officials whom are dead.
Several other TxTags are being used by politicians and ex-NTTA board members who have been out of office—in some cases, for more than ten years. CLICK ON THE ARROW IN THE VIDEO BOX ABOVE TO WATCH THIS MUST SEE TV NEWS VIDEO!
Click the envelope icon below.
TxDOT does bureaucracy, "Waste" by the Billion$, and tolls on roads we've already paid for very well.
From the Statesman article, "Tollways: Candy, or lump of coal?" today:
"Although the new toll roads undoubtedly are getting a lot of people a lot of places faster, sometimes that amounts to the transportation equivalent of "hurry up and wait."
In one of those unintended consequences you're always hearing about, the opening of flyover bridges from Texas 45 North to northbound Interstate 35 has created a huge evening rush hour snarl on the interstate in Round Rock. Drivers from east and west go up two-lane bridges, merge and then find themselves funneled to just one lane entering I-35.
The backups, we're told by people who travel that way every day, have been long and consistent since the tollways opened. Now the really bad news: Highway officials say there's nothing they can do about it anytime soon."
MotherJones: Why you could soon be paying Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish builders for the privilege of driving on USA Roads.
Buying the infrastructure of the economy. It's enormously valuable.
In the Allen American Star article today called "Commisioners face Angry Crowd over outer loop", County Commissioners use lies to steal Texans land (eminent domain abuse). One of the people in the crowd asked the court how it plans to get the right of way for the loop. Jaynes, one of the Commissioners:
"said 90 percent of the right of way for the Dallas North Tollway in Collin County was donated, which caused many people to laugh."
highways just keeps costing us more and more.
Even the LOSERS Win
in the Rush to Privatize
and Toll Texas Roads
Thanks to State Rep. Mike Krusee, Texas is now shelling out millions of our tax dollars to companies that DON’T get chosen to build toll roads.
Do your spit-take now.
That’s right. If you are a mega size toll road builder, and you bid on a project, and you don’t get the job - you get paid.
Our generous elected officials don't call this free tax money a "give-away", they call it a “stipend”. So far each loosing bidder has received $750,000 to over $1 Million dollars - for failing to win projects. Hey, why doesn’t Vegas pay the winners AND the losers?
Remember all that money we "didn't have" for free roads? Why is there millions to give-away now? The Texas Observer comprehensive article, "The Highwaymen" says it all:
"The notion of paying the losers, Williamson agreed, is “nutty as a fruitcake.” But the department is bound by law to do it, he said, a law Williamson suggested might be a holdover from the era of big government. Actually, million-dollar parting gifts for the losers is a more recent Texas custom, courtesy of the huge 2003 transportation bill sponsored by Mike Krusee, a Republican state representative from Round Rock and chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Already, TXDOT has paid roughly $4.3 million to companies whose proposals to spearhead two different road projects were rejected, according to documents obtained by The Texas Observer under the state’s Public Records Act. As much as $10 million more will be doled out in the coming months."And the same handful of companies are part of the scheme, because another part of Krusee’s law now limits road building to only the largest companies, the elite of the special interests. And TxDOT won't build any more free roads, only toll roads. As usual, "safety" (red flag word for graft) is the excuse for the big boy only club. Although, they look the other way when the most dangerous place on the highway is the toll plaza.
Krusee is not a lawyer, holds no college degree, and didn't write the special interests HB 3588, John Langmore did.
The small universe of those who are "qualified" to bid include: Lone Star Infrastructure (a consortium led by Fluor Corp., a multinational company and longtime government contractor and includes Edelman, the world’s largest privately owned public relations firm), Four Rivers Developers (a joint venture whose largest partner was Granite Construction Inc.), Texas Corridor Constructors (a joint venture whose primary partner was Zachry Construction), and Cintra-Zachry (a partnership consisting of Zachry Construction & Spain’s Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte), and Trans Texas Express (whose members included Skanska BOT AB, a global firm based in Sweden; Telvent, a Spanish information and technology company; and a number of U.S. firms, including several based in Texas).
Here’s more from the very detailed Eileen Welsome, of Texas Observer:
"Instead, records show the same small pool of companies, sometimes in different configurations and under different partnership names, vying for the contracts. Sometimes they’re winners. Sometimes they’re losers. Either way, they walk away with a hefty bundle of cash."and:
"The effort to privatize infrastructure dovetails nicely with the agenda of public officials who want to build new roads and repair old ones without increasing taxes. “What we’re seeing,” says Pat Choate, an economist, author, and Ross Perot’s vice presidential running mate in 1996, “is an era in which governments will be selling off their infrastructure to keep their no-tax pledges.”and more details about TxDOT’s Mob like tactics:
"Despite the growing opposition, transportation officials haven’t detoured from their plans. “The Transportation Commission is using scare tactics and old-fashioned, mobster-type arm-twisting to further their gains,” says State Rep. Joe Pickett, an El Paso Democrat. Other state legislators and businessmen are also concerned about the toll projects, Pickett said, but they’re afraid to speak up because of the department’s enormous clout. “There isn’t anyone who will talk about it. If they’re in the business sector, they’ll get blacklisted. If it’s a state rep or senator like myself, they’ll get their projects cut.”
1. TxDOT inflates their "need" by $30 Billion Dollars!
2. TxDOT gets caught with a "claw in the cookie jar".
3. TxDOT gets happy?
This Fox7 News report above focuses on how the new Texas Transportation Institute report proves TxDOT inflated their needs by $30 Billion dollars to sell tolls to the public. $30 Billion dollars is real money folks! Shouldn't someone go to jail or something?
Ok...This is what I see when I watch the video. What do you see?
TxDOT gets caught red handed, and what is Randall Dillard of TxDOT’s spin in the video? Randall says TxDOT likes the report. RIGHT! And the moon is made of cheese. That TxDOT “happiness” will confuse some viewers, but most should see how these TxDOT schemes, are just lies and theft of our tax dollars and our roads.
TxDOT is supposed to serve the public, but instead they see tolls on roads we’ve already paid for and the TTC land grab as an unending, unaccountable source of new revenue.
Privatizing and tolling our existing public highways is also windfall for the TxDOT employees. Individually, the employees like Randall Dillard, who push the double tax tolls, are often rewarded with future six figure jobs with special interest pals. A reward for setting up the new revenue pipeline from your wallet to theirs.
Red light cameras scam increase the number of overall accidents in Plano, Texas. (click here to read)
The overall number of accidents at four Plano, Texas intersections has increased following the installation of red light cameras in March.
ZERO TOLLS NEEDED.
ZERO RAISED GAS TAX.
ZERO THEFT OF OUR ROADS.
ZERO THEFT OF OUR LAND (TTC).
JUST INDEX THE GAS TAX
The new report from Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) called “Shaping the Competitive Advantage of Texas Metropolitan Regions: The role of Transportation, Housing & Aesthetics” dropped the jaws of tollers just a couple weeks ago.
David Ellis, of TTI, shocked Mike Krusee's Transportation Committee, many of which were clearly upset with the findings of the report.
David Ellis, in the video above reveals that tolls are not needed at all:
“The states portion of the problem, can be solved by borrowing against an index, JUST THE INDEX COMPONENT OF THE GAS TAX. IT'S STAGGERING. I agree with you it’s incredible information that we were rather surprised to figure out."CLICK ON THE ARROW IN THE VIDEO TO SEE AND HEAR THIS TESTIMONY. A complete video (about 90 minutes) of the 11/28/06 meeting can watched here.
The crucial part of Ellis’s testimony is also summarized in an article by Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka:
“Don't raise the gasoline tax at all. Instead, index it and put the incremental revenue in the mobility fund, where it can be used to pay off bonds. And here's the bombshell: "Under this scenario," Ellis said, " it wouldn't be necessary to toll as a means of financing...””TxDOT has repeatedly trotted out funny numbers to sell the freeway tolling scheme, claiming if we don’t toll roads we’ve already paid for, we’d need $1.20 gas tax. TxDOT’s District Engineer Bob Daigh even claimed it would cost a $2 to $3 increase in gas tax if we didn’t toll.
The report also states that TxDOT has been over inflating the states transportation need by 30 Billion dollars! Yes, 30 Billion. Don’t people in the real word get fired for that kind of lie, mistake or whatever you might want to call it? The San Antonio Express article tells it well:
"TxDOT failed to account for how much tax revenues would go up over the 25 years from increased driving, he said, and overestimated unfunded needs for state roads by $8 billion.
And, when calculating the funding gap, TxDOT added an estimated $22 billion for local streets in the eight largest cities, though the state has no responsibility for such roads.
The study concluded that a bloated $86 billion in unfunded needs espoused by TxDOT is actually just $56 billion."Click on the small envelope icon directly below
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The new data suggest that TxDOT overestimated the amount of money needed for new construction by $30 billion, causing officials to claim an increase in the gas tax of $1.20 to $3.00 a gallon would be the only alternative to imposing tolls.
Will Kirk "TOLL ROAD KING" Watson be the New CAMPO Chair? And why did he divert Tens of Millions of Transportation Bond Dollars into Toll Roads?
Meet the New Boss.
Worse than the Old Boss.
Numerous reliable sources say special interests are working hard behind the scenes to line up CAMPO votes for Senator Kirk Watson to be the new chair of CAMPO.
The politically ambitious Kirk Watson, Mayor of Austin from 1997 to 2001, and new State Senator replacing the retiring G. Barrientos, has a history of back room deals including eminent domain style takings and corporate welfare giveaways. Watson has diverted tens of millions of public dollars (intended for free roads) into Toll Roads.
One of Kirk Watson's deals led to the destruction of Austin’s leading musical venue and landmark, “Liberty Lunch” so top defense contractor, CSC could build new corporate offices. That sweetheart deal also drastically limited the size of the neighboring City Hall, which an inside city hall source says should have held all city offices.
THE WATSON-INTEL SHRINE
Another Watson deal, this one with Intel, cost city taxpayers $7.5 million in subsidies and incentives. Intel abandoned the half built building, took the money, and left us with the “Intel shell” as a reminder of Watson’s popularity with big business.
Behind closed doors, special interests who profit from tolling roads we’ve already paid for have been meeting with future and current CAMPO board members to show them a predetermined CAMPO plan. The plans include Kirk Watson as CAMPO chair. All of this is taking place without any Public Open Meetings.
During his candidacy, Watson, said little about his position of tolling already tax funded freeways (Phase II tolls). When asked about his position of ‘tolling roads we’ve already paid for’ via email and in person, silence has always been the answer.
In a rare Oct, 20, 2006 speech about freeway toll roads, just days before his election, Watson presents himself as a new voice, a peacemaker, on the double tax issue:
“We can't afford what's happening, which is a contrived war between the "toll army" and the "no-toll army". These two fight each other without even clear objectives anymore, refusing to hear each other, hunkering down into bunkers they built with inadequate figures and empty slogans, and engaging in winner-take-all politics.”WATSON: THE FATHER OF DOUBLE TAX TOLLS
Yet, when you look a little deeper, Kirk Watson is not such a fresh face in the tolling arena. Far from it. Kirk Watson is actually the father of diverting tax and bond dollars into tollways that permanently take public expressways away from Central Texans.
KIRK WATSON PUSHES CITY PROP 1 IN 2000
In 2000, Kirk Watson led the effort on the City of Austin $150 million transportation bond package that promised to spend $130 million on street improvements and public highway expansions (including $90 million for road matching funds to help attract TxDOT state money), with $20 million for bike and pedestrian projects. There was a battle between Watson and Thomas/Griffith in which the latter lost. Thomas/Griffith argued the $90 million that would go to the state was an unaccountable bribe or a slush fund.
"This is the transportation bond package assembled by Mayor Kirk Watson, the one designed to reassure voters that their present-day commuting miseries aren't being ignored"Kirk Watson’s Prop 1 Language (note “toll roads” are not mentioned):
– Austin Chronicle, October 2000 (just before bond election)
PROPOSITION 1 - THE ISSUANCE OF $150,000,000 TAX SUPPORTED GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS TO IMPROVE ROADWAY INTERSECTIONS, ACQUIRE RIGHT-OF-WAY, PROVIDE FUNDS FOR HIGHWAY AND ROADWAY CONSTRUCTION, DEVELOP HIGH OCCUPANCY VEHICLE LANES AND RELATED INFRASTRUCTURE, IMPROVE BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN MOBILITY INFRASTRUCTURE, CONSTRUCT RELATED DRAINAGE FACILITY IMPROVEMENTS, AND ACQUIRE LAND AND OTHER PROPERTY INTERESTS FOR THESE PROJECTS; AND THE LEVY OF A TAX SUFFICIENT TO PAY THE BONDS - Ordinance #000821-01A March 2006 letter from the city answering Councilman Raul Alvarez questions about the bonds says:
the “bonds are scheduled to be issued over 10 years; to date the City has appropriated $84 million”.BOND DOLLARS DIVERTED TO TOLL ROADS
The Alvarez letter also reveals $67 million of the $84 million has been diverted to purchase right of way for SH 45 Tollway and SH 130 Tollway.
Transcripts of City Council meetings give insight to Watsons knowledge of Phase II tolls, and how the bond dollars will be diverted to right of way.
“..CAMPO has already voted not to go forward with phase 2 yet, until it has substantially more information available to it to it...So you are not preordaining anything by a vote today to purchase right-of-way for 45 because that will be considered as part of the process at a later point.”
– Kirk Watson, City of Austin transcript 8/23/2001
AUSTIN CITY BOND DOLLARS DIVERTED TO WILLIAMSON COUNTY TOLLS
Some of the $67 million City of Austin bond dollars was spent outside of the City of Austin limits.
In August of 2001, Kirk Watson with the help of Williamson County Commissioner Mike Heiliginstein, divert 2000 City of Austin bond dollars into Williamson County's portion of the toll roads, using city bond money pledges. This in order to let the Williamson County buyers do the deals fast, while Cap Metro agrees to slowly pay back the city at least part of the money, promising $3.5 million a year for twelve years.
“Mayor (Watson), I don’t know if I’ll get another chance, but thank you for everything you've done over the years...I think we'll make a good team going into the future.”POLITICAL BLACKMAIL
– Mike Heiliginstein addresses Kirk Watson and Council, City of Austin transcript 8/30/2001
Some say the success of Prop 1, and the defeat of Capital Metro’s light rail then signaled the opportunity to raid the Prop. 1 bonds. Political opportunists such as Mike Krusee and Kirk Watson threatened to abolish the weak agency if they didn’t pay the $3.5 million a year to be spent on the toll roads. Some might call it blackmail or extortion.
Will Wynn’s 2001 comments from the transcripts:
“It was mentioned earlier about Representative Krusee being the person who called for Capital Metro to actually spend these funds regionally. I’d like to point out that it was Rep. Krusee who showed a lot of leadership in the legislature this year, when there were some pending Capital Metro bashing bills on the table. So it was Representative Krusee who stepped up, called for the regional funding, but then was the leader in essentially eliminating some wrong-minded, anti-Capital Metro legislation.”
– Council member Will Wynn, City of Austin transcript 8/30/2001
“Somebody might be asking, well, if it's Capital Metro money, why are we voting on it? And keep in mind, the reason we're voting on it is because Capital Metro was also willing in working with the city to be creative.”This article is part 1 of a new 10 part series called “Austin Needs an Enema”. Freeways have never been tolled in the history of the U.S., but that doesn’t stop politicos from diverting City, County and State tax and bond dollars for the benefit of themselves and pals.
– Kirk Watson, City of Austin transcript 8/23/2001
Read the “Circle of Parasites” 1 thru 10 (just click below):
1 of 10: Deadbeat Mike Heiligenstein Runs Freeway Tolling Authority
2 of 10: Two Toll Authority Board Members Refuse to Resign
3 of 10: Austin American Snakesman
4 of 10: Convicted CRIMINAL, Pete Peters, Connected to Freeway Tolls
5 of 10: Rep. Mike Krusee and Lobbyist Melinda Wheatley.
6 of 10: Ghost Organization Voted to Toll Austin Freeways
7 of 10: Rep. Dawnna Dukes Payolla Toll Vote Ignores Federal Law
8 of 10: Commissioner Limmer and Convicted Criminal
9 of 10: TxDOT Engineer, Bob Daigh and a Convicted Criminal
10 of 10: KRUSEE Cohort, John Langmore, syphons tax dollars.
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The Lone Star Report’s new article titled,
“Eight-cent indexed gas-tax increase can replace tolling”, reveals TxDOT’s big con.For years TxDOT has been giving overblown gas tax estimates to scare Texans into the tolling camp. Based on the Governors own Business Council, it looks like tolls are at least 36 times MORE expensive per mile.
Back in March of 2004, TxDOT’s Bob Daigh and CTRMA’s Mike Heiligenstein told the public and CAMPO that $2 to $3 a dollar a gallon gas tax would be needed if we don’t toll our roads. A press release the CTRMA released even said,
"...the alternative of paying a $2.00 to $3.00 per-gallon gas tax would never be accepted."That’s a huge contrast to the Lone Star Report article's 8 cents a mile,
“New toll roads aren’t the only pathway to financing the state’s transportation needs, according to a recent report commissioned by the Governor’s Business Council (GBC).How does TxDOT cook the books and come up with these ridiculous gas tax numbers? The article explains TxDOT’s fuzzy math and shames TxDOT,
An eight cent increase in the gas tax indexed for inflation may be all that’s needed to pay for new state roads over the next 25 years.”
“The reason for the importance of this issue,” Stevens told Houghton, “is your position is, and has been, that the reason we should follow your line of reasoning is because it takes a $1.20 increase in the gas tax to do anything to solve the problem. It does not require that amount of money. It is a debate that is worth having. It is a debate that has not occurred, and I welcome[it].”Indexing the gas tax has been number 6 of our 10 smart solutions. If you compare raising the gas tax 8 cents per gallon (that equals less than 1/2 a cent per mile using the 20 MPG car) to tolls at .18 cents per mile - tolls cost at least 36 times as much!.
Stevens added that TxDOT also included the cost of city and county roads, which it is not responsible for, in its projections for the construction costs over the next quarter century. “The $86 billion problem is a problem that includes city and county roads,” he said.
What TxDOT needs is closer to $60 billion, he said. Of that figure, the GBC report estimates TxDOT would need $44 billion for the state’s eight largest metropolitan areas.
Indexing the gas tax can address the $44 billion state shortfall, Ellis said.”
An existing tax structure always costs less than an additional unaccountable tax on something we’ve already purchased. Add in the unacceptable bureaucracy and the crooks who make a profit off the infrastructure that is already ours.
Raise the gas tax 1/2 a cent per mile, index it, stick a fork in it, we’re done. Oh, and put some of these TxDOT crooks in jail.
State Rep. Norma Chavez (El Paso) has complained about NAFTA, yet this two-faced slick politico just filed HB 51 - which sets up a fund that will DIVERT 20% of ALL bond and other public securities proceeds into a "NAFTA corridor account." FACT: If our elected officials didn't divert our transportation tax dollars into freeway and TTC toll schemes, we'd have more than enough for free roads.
NOT NECESSARY TO TOLL, A&M EXPERT SAYSby Paul Burka, Senior Executive Editor of Texas Monthly
Few things are duller than a committee meeting in the interim between legislative sessions. Witnesses drone on about policy choices involving arcane issues. Some of the committees exist only for a short duration and will vanish once the legislative session begins in January. The media almost never shows up for these meetings, which explains why the November 28 meeting of the Study Commission on Transportation Financing received virtually no attention. But a few minutes into the hearing, David Ellis, a co-author of a report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M, dropped a bombshell on the commission. He said that Texas could finance its highway needs without toll roads. The headline for this post is based on Ellis's testimony. I have not come across any mainstream media reports of Ellis's remarks.
Ellis provided the committee with some background on transportation policy. The demand for new and expanded roads in the state's eight largest metro areas is increasing much faster than TxDot can build them. Over the next 25 years, the population of these areas is projected to increase by 2.8% per year, employment by by 2.3%, vehicles by 2.7%, and daily miles drive by 3%. Over the same period, the number of lane miles that can be built with currently available funding will increase by just .25% per year. Tx-Dot estimates that the state will need an additional $68 billion over the next 25 years to improve mobility. The TTI's estimate is slightly lower, $66.2 billion. Two-thirds of the needed new construction will be in the state road system, or some $44+ billion; the remainder represents improvements to local roads.
The money for highway construction comes from three sources: vehicle registration fees, the state gasoline (more properly, motor fuels) tax, and reimbursements from the federal gasoline tax, of which Texas sends more revenue to Washington than it gets back. Of these sources, the one that matters the most is the motor fuels tax. But the tax has been losing ground to inflation in recent years.
Now, here is the crucial part of Ellis's testimony: There are scenarios under which roads can be financed:
1. Raise the motor fuels tax, currently 20 cents per gallon, to 51 cents. Interestingly, a Tx-Dot engineer had previously told the committee that the motor fuels tax would have to be raised to $1.40 per gallon to pay for the needed new construction. Needless to say, the Legislature is not going to raise the tax by 31 cents, much less a buck twenty.The cat is out of the bag now. Tolls aren't the only way to pay for new roads. Will the Legislature allow Tx-Dot to go forward with its mammoth toll road plan, or will lawmakers devise a solution that will allow revenue to be used to build free roads?
2. Raise the motor fuels tax by 8 cents and index it to inflation, using not the consumer price index, but a special highway construction index. The rate of inflation has been 1/2% to 1 1/2 percent per year.
3. Don't raise the gasoline tax at all. Instead, index it and put the incremental revenue in the mobility fund, where it can be used to pay off bonds. And here's the bombshell: "Under this scenario," Ellis said, " it wouldn't be necessary to toll as a means of financing, although that's certainly an option."
Chris Willis from KXAN picked up the Muckraker Blog Exclusive, "Tollers Secretly Tracking The Public", from last Monday! Click on the arrow within the video for it to play.
The KXAN report, ”Cameras Capturing License Plates On Toll Roads”, was done 2 days later and caught TxDOT in yet more lies. Most people think the cameras are a system for tracking toll violators. But they are actually taking a picture of everyone who drives the road. We don’t know how long the data will be archived, if the information is shared with other government agencies, or if the database is being sold to the highest bidder.
KXAN interviewed the image review clerk that contacted me days earlier:
“We found one of the people who was hired to do this work. He didn’t want his identity revealed. He told us his quota was 4,000 license plates entered into the database everyday. It seemed high so he asked his supervisor.”TXDOT LIES
“She said, ‘Well no, we’re not doing violations right now. We’re basically entering in all the data from everybody traveling the new toll roads.” Which sort of threw me back because at that point I thought I was going to be handling violations,” the image review clerk said.
First Gabriela Garcia of TxDOT says the equipment is simply “being tested”. Then Garcia says:
“I’m not sure how much of that’s happening on which roads and how many of the vehicles are actually being photographed. It’s not being sold to anybody or anybody else for any other purpose other than toll enforcement purposes only,”Then in a second interview Garcia said any photographs taken and information gathered on people that are not violating the tolls will be deleted, and “no records will be kept”.
Right. I believe TxDOT, and there are some pigs flying by my window right now. Monkeys are flying out of their a%#.
After thirty-six years, all Kentucky parkways are now free of tolls.
The Toll Road on 290 at the "Y" costs more that a free road. There is also at least $76 million of taxpayer funds already allocated to any new construction (not to mention the millions of right of way costs we've already paid for over the decades). And once again, shifting freeways to tollways has never taken place in the U.S. (Except for Gov. Perry's Freeway Toll SH 121 in Dallas. SH 121 Toll should have opened as a freeway. It was 100% fully funded with tax dollars and it opens this week). Here's the letters to the editor today:
STATESMAN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Asher Price and the American-Statesman have done a great service for Oak Hill neighborhoods by giving front-page exposure to our alternative to the Texas Department of Transportation's 12-lane toll road on U.S. 290 West (Nov. 29 article, "Report: Widen road, but protect creek").
The article correctly stressed the environmental argument against the state's design, but we are not just a bunch of tree-huggers. The Fix290 concept started with a few concerned neighbors gathered around a dining room table in Oak Hill, and we grew because our idea made sense to a broad diversity of people throughout Hays and Travis counties.
We are still just a group of citizen volunteers in a David and Goliath battle, and we appreciate all the help we can get in telling our story.
Fix 290 Coalition
I strongly support the Fix290 Coalition's plan, which takes the environment into account and actually offers a solidly viable alternative to the state's plan.
Thank you for the article on the proposed parkway solution for U.S. 290.
There are traffic problems in our neck of the woods, but the proposed tollway solution is not the right one for this area. The Fix290 Coalition's parkway idea is about perfect — more cars through, yet still plenty of access for local business. And it comes in at a cheaper price, so that tolls are not needed.
Commuters win, local businesses win the environment wins. So, who loses? Tolls.
The pro-toll road legislators argue that user-fees such as tolls are fair and equitable. I would argue that toll roads are fair and equitable only for those wealthy enough. If I cannot afford the road, then I'm really not being offered a choice of whether to drive on it.
If, however, I am paying a general tax (which also curtails my spending choices) at the least I can choose what I do not want to spend my money on.
I would rather pay an open tax and be free to curtail any of my expenses: beer, clothes, tires, as well as toll roads.
Back in 1996, Mike "Deadbeat" Heiligenstein, Williamson County Commissioner, now Executive Director of the CTRMA, and Convicted Criminal Pete Peters were spending Wilco Tax dollars on a politicly slanted mailer to trick Wilco taxpayers. The more tax dollars that are spent somehow always equals self benefit for these freeway tolling con men. As reported in the decade old Statesman article from 11/1996:
"Some people thought the brochure was a political ad. Georgetown resident Nancy Rister wanted to know who paid for the announcement, which didn't say how it was financed. "It's hard to believe this is just an informational piece -- it seems more promotional,'' Rister said Thursday. "I have a hard time accepting them spending taxpayer money to try and convince taxpayers to increase their taxes even more.''"
CLICK ON VIDEO TO WATCH
TxDOT chair, Ric Williamson, appointed by Rick Perry, sees big dollars as freeways get shifted to tollways. Are tollers interested in keeping the costs down for taxpayers? "That's not our strategy" says Ric Williamson in the video. It's about HOW MUCH TXDOT CAN SQUEEZE OUT OF OUR FAMILIES. $.10, $1.00, $2.00 a mile? Taxpayer dollars are diverted to pay for the expressway, then the freeway is shifted to a tollway and the public will be charged as much as possible. A DOUBLE TAX.
L.A Times writes about how a Cash gift loophole allows Texas officials unlimited gifts of money without having to disclose the amount.
"Looking for that special something to give a Texas politician this holiday season? Don't fret: A suitcase stuffed with $100 bills is perfectly fine."
"Ronnie Earle, the Travis County district attorney... joked that Texas officials could reveal receiving a gift of a wheelbarrow, "without reporting that the wheelbarrow was filled with cash.""
After 4 years of conflict of interests, and profiting off the system, Johanna Zmud resigned last June. But, here we are 5 months later and she’s still a board member of the Freeway Tolling Authority (CTRMA)! I ask you, what kind of upside down world do we live in?
Forget about the $15 Billion in State surplus, and the Billions that TxDOT is diverting to toll roads. The TxDOT Chair, rabid Ric Williamson, says Texans will get Tree-less toll roads and like it. HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Perry's TxDOT cuts program for transportation enhancements because of hurricanes and war on terrorism.
"...the Texas Historical Commission's director said Tuesday the state Department of Transportation purposely targeted millions in proposed "transportation enhancement" initiatives because agency officials have never liked the program."
THE Statesman article today gives us an update about 45SE Toll on the East side but, it doesn't give us any update on 45SW (from what I understand it is still legally impossible to build). Note the Statesman continues to help sell TxTAGs by including a sales pitch at the end of the article to let you know how you can purchase a TxDOT wireless revenue collection account via phone, online or in person. As a reminder, the Snakesman endorsed the Phase II toll plan (tolling freeways we've already paid for) on June 27th, 2004.