Red McCombs: Billionaire, car salesman and one of Gov. Rick Perry’s top donors has got his “toll everything” editorial printed in most major Texas newspapers - from Austin to Amarillo. Eager to help out Perry, and push the latest corporate subsidy scheme, McCombs is pushing tolls hard:
"By utilizing toll roads and private investment along with traditional funding methods, Texas can get more roads built faster and without a significant tax increase."McCombs also says we are going to have to toll tax our freeways or we'll have no more roads. That's simply not true. See my very last paragraph.
Just last year, McCombs hired on his nephew and started TheTollTruth.com to push the toll freeways scam - with Zachry. When the San Antonio Express asked if McCombs had any interests (could profit from tolls) - there was no response.
Folks, it time for you to send letters to the editor. Educate others about tolling freeways or the TTC or ask Red McCombs to "fess up" and tell the public how he'll profit off the toll scam. 150 words or less and include your name, address and phone number for verification.
I’ve submitted this opinion article, but I don’t have a billion dollars. Feel free to borrow portions of it and lets get some letters to the editor out there!:
PRIVATIZING AND TOLLING FREEWAYS IS A DEAD END.
Under the guise of traffic congestion relief, the largest taxpayer fleecing in Texas history is now underway.
Elected officials are selling off our assets, our public highways, such as SH 121 in Dallas, in a desperate attempt to raise quick cash to build more toll roads. Any financial adviser will tell you, selling off assets is the first sign of bankruptcy.
Selling our roads today will equal crippling toll rates, and more traffic congestion tomorrow. Just ask California.
State Highway 121 in Dallas is the first freeway in Texas to be sold off. In exchange for a one time payment, Cintra, a foreign toll road corporation will charge a toll for the only expressway for miles. Cintra will profit from this monopoly and raise the toll tax rate for 50 years.
The first, and only other freeway to tollway conversion in the history of the US was California’s US 91 deal in the 1990’s. A noncompete clause, similar to Cintra’s deal for SH 121, kept California from increasing highway capacity on nearby roads. And, after seven years of increased traffic congestion and public unrest, it cost California taxpayers $207.5 million more to buy back US 91. Today, the toll rate on US 91 continues to increase and traffic congestion is worse than ever.
Recently, our legislature has been focused on a two year moratorium that would temporarily halt private toll road deals like SH 121. The moratorium is now veto proof, with over two thirds of both the Texas house and the senate on board. The sad fact is, the moratorium has been a distraction. The fact is - voters were never asked if our freeways should be converted to tollways in the first place.
The real dialog should be whether we toll freeways or index the gas tax - not whether private companies or a our own government should implement a new double tax.
When a freeway is tolled, crucial expressways are not offered as an alternative. In contrast, conventional toll roads in the U.S. are fair, since drivers are offered a freeway as an alternative. With freeway tolls - drivers are forced to drive frontage roads with stop lights and deal with growing traffic congestion if they don’t pay the toll. The fact is, there is a financial incentive to NOT address traffic congestion on freeway toll roads since increased traffic congestion provides higher revenues.
The freeway toll cash cow is a severe departure for TxDOT, and should be a major concern of and taxpayer, since TxDOT’s focus has always been solving transportation issues -- not generating revenue through traffic congestion.
Freeway tolls create monopolies and are the most expensive solution for collecting a tax. According to TxDOT, it costs about 25 cents to collect a cash toll, and 11 cents to collect an electronic toll. So, if the toll tax for a short span of road is 50 cents, 50% of the cash paid for that toll goes to collect the toll.
The solution is simple, instead of spending our limited tax dollars (and right of way) intened for free roads, on toll roads - index the gas tax to inflation, and numerous other states have. Nearly everything we purchase has an indexed tax - a fair form of taxation.
Assuming your vehicle gets 20 miles per gallon, and the increase in indexed gas tax was 10 cents a gallon, you would spend less than .5 cent a mile for an indexed gas tax. Compare that to the 15 cent a mile toll road that would cost 30 times the indexed gas tax per mile. A 20 cents a mile toll would cost 40 times the indexed gas tax, and so on.
Based on the recent Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) report, indexing the gas tax and placing the incremental revenue in the mobility fund to pay off bonds allows us to build the roads we need now, without more toll roads. Void of added bureaucracy and new layers of corruption, indexing the gas tax is the simplest and smartest solution.