July 31, 2013

Rick Perry and Texas transportation trauma


As Texas political watchers of all stripes know, we're now headed to a third special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature. The last time that happened? I believe it was in 2005, when Gov. Tricky Ricky Perry had a unanimous vote against his initial proposal for school finance reform, or "reform," in the first special.

That's why Gov. Helmethair pretending to be the voice of reason on transportation issues is such a laugh. He hasn't been the voice of reason since he jumped in bed with Cintas and Zachry over the Trans-Texas Corridor. Ahh, who could forget that.

Well, certainly not tea party types. It's arguable that, three years or so before the election of Barack Obama as president, tea partyism got its start right here in Tejas over the TTC.

Xenophobia over a foreign country? Check. (Warranted not as a foreign company, just a big privatizing one.)

Paranoia about big government? Check, but again, warranted, given the rampant, roughshod powers of eminent domain Tricky Ricky was proposing.

Paranoia about major spending? Check, but not warranted.

That said, there's plenty of blame, almost all Republican, to spread on this issue.

Texas' gas tax hasn't been raised in 20 years, right? Well, if math is correct, the GOP has controlled the governor's mansion for the last 18 of those, the lieutenant governor's slot for the last 14, and a majority of both houses for the last 12. Ditto on the fact that the state's gas tax isn't totally dedicated to roads.

Texas' general refusal to engage in long-term state indebtedness for road projects? That one's a mix of Republicans and conservative Democrats. Anything that would disturb Big Oil is a no-no.

That, in turn leads back to the current situation, namely the refusal to consider tapping the Rainy Day Fund. (Tea partyers' stance on this in the Lege spells difficulty for the water projects constitutional amendment in the fall.)

This stars with Tricky Ricky, who refused to entertain the idea for education two years ago. It's exacerbated by Comptroller Susan Combs' willfully bad accounting then.

That said, this is a chance for Dems to insist that an ever-more-urbanizing Texas put more money into light rail and other urban transportation alternatives to building more pavement. Tricky Ricky simply can't get a decent bill passed without them.

Tea partiers will not trust Perry on transportation issues, period, given the TTC past. And, there's enough people who fall into this category, especially in the Texas House, that I don't think there's any chance a bill moves without Democratic support, and a decent amount of it. Dems are in the driver's seat; will they know how to properly work the gears?

And, given that this is not about a social conservative measure, when are Dems going to start hammering Perry for wasting $800K for each special?

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