Taxpayers’ revolt ahead of Monday vote
While San Antonians were enjoying turkey and counting their blessings this Thanksgiving, their politicians were scurrying to load-up the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) long-range plan with no less than 37 toll projects, 18 of them slated to come under foreign control using controversial private toll contracts called Comprehensive Development Agreements (or CDAs).
The grassroots defeated CDAs during a special called session of the Texas legislature in July, yet the MPO plugged these now illegal contracts into its plan anyway, apparently following TxDOT’s playbook of using it as a means to get CDAs re-authorized over the LOUD OPPOSITION of Texans in the next legislative session in 2011.
TURF has alerted the grassroots to urge the MPO to:
1) REMOVE toll roads and CDAs from its plans.
2) Use traditional gas tax funding NOT privatizing and tolling Texas roads as its source of funding for these projects.
3) NOT VOTE for ANY plan with toll projects and CDAs in it.
“We’ve been warning San Antonians for years that Rick Perry has made his toll tax policy so expansive, they won’t be able to escape it. The MPO’s list of 37 toll projects shows how out of touch our politicians are with the economic realities of their constituents. It’s clear this about more than getting projects built, it’s an all-out assault on our freedom to travel by making it unaffordable to drive. I haven’t met a single Texan outside the Capitol that thinks it’s a good idea to cede control of our Texas roads to foreign companies,” observes Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF.
As an example of just what a taxpayer disaster it is to hand control of our public roads to private, foreign toll operators using CDAs, drivers on a road operated by Spain-based Cintra (who has won three Texas contracts already) in Canada receive their first bill totaling thousands of dollars in fines years after they supposedly took the tollway. The government has no power to step-in and protect motorists from runaway taxation nor disputed toll fines.
A recent article in the Toronto Star chronicles the nightmare:
“’We, as a government, have no control over that, as a result of the (Mike) Harris government’s deal,’ to lease the toll road to a private consortium for 99 years and include a provision in the contract forcing the transportation ministry to deny new plates to anyone who doesn’t pay the 407 whatever it demands, said Bradley.
“The 407 ‘negotiated a deal that was very favourable to them and they covered all the aspects of the deal that they would want,’ said Bradley.
“Many readers said they think the 407 deliberately holds back invoices on unpaid balances to allow interest charges to grow, but Bradley noted that it “is responsible for establishing its own business practices, and under its deal … it has the right to set and collect tolls and administration fees and interest.”
Here’s some of the anti-taxpayer provisions involved in CDA sweetheart deals:
-In Texas, they can last up to 52 years
- Contracts are kept secret from the public until AFTER they’re signed (no transparency, no way to ensure public protections)
-Charge oppressively high toll rates, like 75 cents PER MILE (like the deals in DFW) which on average will mean $3,000 a year in new taxes on driving
-Grant foreign companies the right to levy taxes, the power to take away drivers licenses or car/license plate registration
-Removes rights of due process for toll violations and fines
-Non-compete agreements that guarantee congestion on the free routes
-Guaranteed annual profits (so they can raise the toll rates to whatever price needed so they always get their guaranteed level of profit)
-Massive taxpayer subsidies (so it’s a double and even triple tax scenario) yet all the profits leave Texas
-Toll companies write off the depreciation of the “asset” on their taxes (then spin it off to another subsidiary company and start the depreciation all over again)
- Exemption from alternative minimum taxes and often special use of tax-exempt public bonds
- Little to no actual risk transfer from the public to private sector
-Slower speed limits on free routes and higher speed limits on the tollways to drive more traffic to the toll roads (financial incentive given to TxDOT for driving more traffic to the tollways)
A sample list of toll projects on the docket:
-Hwy 90 (from 410 to 211)
- I-10 (from 410 to county line)
- Loop 1604 (just about the entire loop, not just the north half)
- 281 (from 1604 to Comal County line)
- I-37 (from 410 south to Atascosa County line)
- Bandera Rd (from 410 to 1604 still appears despite amendment to remove it)
- interchange at I-10 & 1604
- interchange at 281 & 1604 (northbound ramps)
- interchange at 1604 & 151
- interchange at 1604 & 90
- interchange at 1604 & 1-35
- interchange at I-35 & 410
- Kelly Pkwy/Spur 371 (US 90 to SH 16)
- ALL of I-35 (from Atascosa to Comal County line)