Just hours into a special session called in part to address the need to extend and modify the state’s authority to enter into private toll road contracts, the Austin American-Statesman reports that the prospects of resolution may be dimming as Texas legislators seemingly continue to be held politically hostage by solution-less opponents of road privatization.
Ironically, these opponents have gotten a lot of mileage out of their disingenuous “tolls=taxes” rhetoric (toll roads are voluntary—i.e., you don’t drive them if you don’t want to pay; meanwhile, when was the last time you paid a “voluntary” tax?). Yet, when asked to present their solution for Texas’ massive transportation funding gap, opponents’ only proposed fix is to…(drumroll)…raise the gas tax. Last time I checked, fuel taxes are mandatory and tolls are not, but that seemingly intuitive point remains lost on many Texas legislators.
So instead of recognizing that, for example, the recently completed private contract to develop the multi-billion dollar, congestion-busting North Tarrant Express project in the Metroplex area is the only realistic way that vital project would have ever been completed, many legislators seem content to ignore such evidence and remain fiddling on toll roads while Texas transportation burns.
The status quo is failing to deliver the infrastructure Texas needs to remain economically competitive over the long-term, and the sooner legislators realize that they need all financing tools at their disposal—including private toll concessions—the better. For more on the Texas toll road situation, see here and here.