TxDOT Director: "People didn't understand toll roads."

Government advertising under scrutiny

TxDOT campaign at center of debate over $100 million in ad spending

By PEGGY FIKAC, Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN — Government spending on advertising is being put under a microscope by state lawmakers who say they want to ensure public funds are used to inform, not unduly influence Texans.

The effort was sparked by concerns over a divisive toll road campaign by the Texas Department of Transportation, which was in a familiar spotlight at Friday's House State Affairs Committee hearing on the issue.

"We get all of the advantages of the toll roads, and yet there are a lot of people that see a lot of disadvantages," said Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, a State Affairs member. "It seems like there was almost an effort to go beyond what the legislative intent was ... We have an agency here that kind of has their agenda that is different from ... legislative intent. I guess that's what our concerns are."

Coby Chase, director of TxDOT's government and public affairs division, responded, "We have most certainly, certainly heard that." He said that the agency is "reassessing everything."

About $4.5 million has been spent on the Keep Texas Moving campaign, but there are no additional big advertising pushes in the works under its banner, according to TxDOT. The campaign originally was proposed at $7 million to $9 million.

Chase called it a response to concerns that people didn't understand toll roads.

The ad campaign had a ripple effect by prompting Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, State Affairs vice chairman, to call for the committee to study advertising practices across state government.

State agencies' public awareness campaigns often give useful information, but "some state agencies may have overstepped their bounds by actually advertising their programs in an effort to lobby the public to support their agenda or utilize a particular service," Paxton said.

The committee gave an initial look Friday at everything from health officials touting the benefits of breast feeding to promotion of state agricultural products to the Texas Lottery Commission's advertising.

It's unclear just how much state agencies spend on promotions, since state records don't precisely track them.

But an examination of state records last year by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News found the tally for advertising, publications and promotional items could easily reach $100 million or more in state and federal funds just for fiscal year 2008.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


Anonymous said...

The advertising of TxDot is a joke,the trans corridor is a joke, and our governor is a joke.TxDot has no business spending 100 million dollars on ads when this money could have been used for roads.
The click it or ticket campaign matches the tickets, police give out, by TxDot. Why is TxDot giving money away. When did TxDot get into the law enforcement business.
They are trying to save 35 million dollars right now, which one way is by people losing their jobs, but TxDot can spend 100 million on ads. Where is the logic here?
Alot of blue collar families will be hurt with TxDot lay offs when in fact the fat needs to be trimmed at the top.

Anonymous said...

Follow the money -- I'll bet that the advertising agencies given this tax-payer funding are parasitic trolling cronies.