Thursday, January 9, 2014

Perry Hypes TX Transportation

Governor Rick Perry has been lauding the improvements in the Texas transportation system.

The available data indicates that Texas transportation infrastructure, particularly highways, has increased and grown substantially since 2001. In fact, records show that over 6,500 new miles of highway have been built in the past 12 years. The growth and improvements have cost taxpayers almost $60 billion.

In order to accomplish the projects, Perry and the State have instituted P-3 (Private-Public Partnership) projects similar to those instituted by Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana. They have also delegated much of the roadwork to local and municipal officials so they could target the work where the cities felt it was most needed.

Of course, that works great if the local municipal government is transparent and not corrupt. However, it leaves questions about cities such as San Antonio whose mayor has been pushing for an over-priced light rail system that will never generate enough revenue to be self-sufficient. That means it will forever be a burden upon the taxpayers to run mostly empty trains. Other questions can be raised concerning transportation funding in San Antonio should a trace on the funds show it being deposited into any of the revolving accounts such as "the variable" in the city's telecommunications department. 

The improvements made in the past 12 years have prompted the Texas Transportation Commission to create the Governor Rick Perry Leadership in Transportation Award. the award will be given to leaders in Texas who increase transportation infrastructure in a manner that does not increase taxes on citizens. 

Gov. Perry remarked on the importance of transportation infrastructure in Texas and the government's role in facilitating projects:

"Transportation fuels the economy that's making it possible for families to build lives, but transportation is also essential to help families enjoy the lives they've built," Gov. Perry said. "That's a simple fact of life that we need to keep in mind moving forward. That's why we've taken so many steps over the past decade to improve our roads, while remaining true to the essential Texas value of fiscal responsibility."

With many businesses moving from less-business-friendly states to Texas and the relative economic boom in the state, many contend that the improvement and growth of transportation infrastructure is a necessary factor in continuing economic growth in the state. Companies such as X-Cor and Magpul benefit from relocating to Texas. In order for their products to get to their designated markets, they need roads, railways, and airfields. 

One key feather in the state government's cap is they have accomplished this without raising taxes. However, a drawback is unfunded liabilities generated from the sale of bonds. Bonds are a form of loan to the government, part of the public debt. They must be paid back with interest in the future. That leaves a drawback of potentially leaving the next generation stuck with the bills.

The 83rd Legislature had to convene for a second special session this past summer to debate (and pass) resolutions regarding the transportation funding in the state. The resolution went before voters this past November and were ratified to the Texas State Constitution. The resolution allowed for the creation of a new transportation fund and the movement of a portion of the Economic Stability Fund (so-called "rainy day fund"). The ESF funds were then to be back-filled by any budgetary surplus after the biannual budget closed.

Comptroller Combs certified the budget with a $5.5 Billion surplus for 2012-13. Many voters are wondering why the transportation fund wasn't just created on its own without having to reduce the ESF. The ESF is mostly funded from the remainders of any budgetary surplus that results. It is part of the state's balanced budget amendment. Others contend that the surplus could also have been used to pay down some of the public debt. Though the state is not in bad shape, some Texas cities, such as San Antonio and Houston, have record high public debts. More conservative citizens contend that it is far more responsible to live the life you can afford instead of living the life you can borrow today at the cost of tomorrow's prosperity.