8/21/2009Texas Senator Declares Anti-Toll Campaign for Governor
Toll roads become a key campaign issue in race to become Texas governor.
US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on Monday officially announced her bid to unseat fellow Republican Rick Perry as Texas governor. As she unveiled her campaign platform in LaMarque, transportation issues emerged as one of five themes central to her argument that she would be better for the state than the ten-year incumbent who has championed the use of toll roads and the sale of public assets to foreign corporations.
"It is time to return to our tradition of free, quality highways and roads," Hutchison said in her campaign announcement. "Then there's the Trans-Texas Corridor. The biggest land grab in the history of Texas. And Governor (Perry) wanted to turn it over to a foreign company to build toll roads. Well, they can call it the Trans-Texas Corridor. Or they can call it something different. But here's what I will call it when I take the oath of office, dead, buried, history. We can do better."
The announcement came as construction began on the first foreign-owned toll road in the state. Cintra, a Spanish corporation, will control State Highway 130 in Central Texas for the next fifty years. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) originally envisioned the route as a component of the Trans-Texas Corridor 35 project, although intense public opposition has forced state officials to avoid using the Trans-Texas Corridor label. TxDOT's promotion of tolling despite public sentiment has made the agency a target for reformers.
"Today, TxDOT is the most arrogant, unaccountable state agency in the history of Texas," Hutchison said. "I will reform and expand the commission. It should be more representative of all regions of our state. And it will seek and embrace local input."
Last week, Hutchison identified Perry's "land grab" transportation policies as the ultimate source of TxDOT's arrogance.
"Using toll roads as a permanent tax raise is not good public policy," Hutchison said. "I will work with you, not dictate to you."
Hutchison has a history of introducing legislation designed to stop the tolling of freeways and interstates and of speaking out against the practice she describes as double taxation.