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Stories Added - July 2009
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State agencies will live on, CDA agreements won’t
Polk County Enterprise - July 2009
AUSTIN — The Texas Legislature concluded a two-day special session after passing bills to preserve key state agencies and supply funding for transportation projects over the next two years. Senate and House passed HB 1 on Thursday, July 2, which would issue about $2 billion in transportation bonds authorized by voters in 2007. It would dedicate $1 billion of that money toward non-tolled transportation funds, and the other billion would go to the state infrastructure fund bank. Money in the bank could be used to leverage $3 billion in loans for transportation projects. The House and Senate also passed legislation that prevents five agencies, including the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) and the Department of Transportation (TxDOT), from disappearing on Sept. 1.
“I am pleased that lawmakers passed legislation to continue the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Insurance and three other state agencies, and authorized the issuance of $2 billion in transportation bonds that were approved by Texas voters in 2007,” Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday after the legislation passed. SB 2 provides for the continuation of TDI and TxDOT through 2011, as well as the Texas Racing Commission, Office of Public Insurance Council, and the Texas Affordable Housing Commission. Those agencies will undergo a sunset review, where lawmakers consider changing the scope and operation of an agency, in the next regular session.
One issue placed on the governor’s call wasn’t addressed by legislators. Gov. Perry asked the Legislature to consider bills extending comprehensive development agreements (CDAs), which are essentially publicprivate partnerships intended to pay for new roads. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said that after talking with regional mobility authorities, Senators decided the issue is not pressing. “We didn’t see the urgency for these CDAs to be extended at the present time,” said Dewhurst. Sen. Robert Nichols (RJacksonville) authored SB 3 which would have reauthorized CDAs. “If the Legislature does not reauthorize CDAs during this very short special session, I don’t think it will cause any problems for the state,” Nichols said. “My only goal in authoring Senate Bill 3 was to make sure that if the Legislature decided to allow CDAs, we would only do so in a way that returned local control of transportation projects and established important protections for Texas drivers and taxpayers.”
Gov. Perry said he’ll continue to work on transportation solutions. “With more than 1,000 people moving to Texas each day and a growing economy, improving transportation in our state continues to be a top priority of mine. I had hoped to reduce uncertainty regarding several major transportation projects across the state by extending the comprehensive development agreement authority for local and state transportation agencies. Although the CDA bill did not pass, we will continue to work with legislators and local officials to find transportation solutions for our state.”
Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Chair John Carona of Dallas said there will be plenty of time to fully address the issue when the Legislature next meets in regular session. “No major project is going to be left behind between now and 2011,” he said. Opponents to private funding of toll roads are calling that a victory.
“Today, ordinary Texans brought Governor Rick Perry’s road privatization, toll road, and Trans Texas Corridor agenda to a screeching halt,” said Hank Gilbert, a spokesman for Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF). “CDA proponents and senate leaders like John Carona and Steve Ogden need to be taken to the woodshed for promising to promote the MOST expensive method of road funding, CDAs, next session,” said TURF founder Terri Hall. “They want to continue to raid public pension funds over the loud objections of Texans. None of this is dead in their minds, just postponed until they can resurrect this controversial public fleecing for another day,” Hall emphasized.