12/31/2009Hutchison Centers Race for Texas Governor on Transportation
US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison uses opposition to tolling as primary weapon in race to win Republican nomination for Texas governor.
US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on Tuesday announced her transportation-centered plan to unseat Texas Governor Rick Perry in the race to win the Republican nomination for governor in March. Hutchison's announcement focused on Perry's support for the unpopular Trans-Texas Corridor toll road project and the failures of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which lawmakers last year labeled "out of control" for its single-minded focus on tolling.
"Texans are tired of the traffic and congestion in our cities," Hutchison said. "They are frustrated with the arrogance and inefficiencies of the leadership at the Texas Department of Transportation that have failed to produce results. One of my top priorities as governor will be to clean up TxDOT and solve the transportation problems that have plagued Texas for the last decade."
Summarizing Perry's plan as "just trying to fix potholes and add major toll roads," Hutchison highlighted TxDOT's pursuit of a tax on drivers for every mile traveled, which would require the installation of a GPS tracking device on every vehicle. The senator also hit Perry for creating a "loophole" known as pass-through toll financing to ram through private toll road deals without the legislature's authorization.
Hutchison proposed specific legislative actions, including killing the Trans-Texas Corridor and prohibiting toll road non-compete agreements that include secret provisions that lower the speed limit on free roads (view TheNewspaper's October 2007 report on this issue). No existing freeway would be tolled except for new capacity added. To reform TxDOT, Hutchison's plan called for a shakeup of the agency's management structure. To provide more funding for roads, she called for an end to the diversion of $1.2 billion in gas tax revenue that is currently used for purposes unrelated to road maintenance and the reduction of traffic congestion.
Rick Perry fired back through his campaign spokesman to suggest Hutchison's proposals were vague and irrelevant.
"Not only are most of Sen. Hutchison's transportation proposals already being practiced, but she offers no plan to fund them," Perry aide Mark Miner said in a statement.
Perry's camp insisted that many of Hutchison's proposals mirror existing TxDOT practice. For example, the Trans-Texas Corridor project is already dead and state law already prohibits tolling of existing free roads.
A Rasmussen poll last month showed that although incumbent Perry failed to gather a majority of GOP primary voters, Hutchison trailed by eleven points. View a Hutchison campaign video compilation of Perry statements on tolling: