Appoint a committee, roads to follow
Thu December 31, 2009 11:00 am

The following two paragraphs are the conclusion of an article that appeared in the Pasadena Citizen about an appearance by Kay Bailey Hutchison yesterday in which she discussed her transportation plan. The article appears on the Hutchison campaign web site:

When asked about paying for transportation improvements, she was less specific.

For financing rail improvement and other improvements, Hutchison said the first step is to examine where money is being spent now, then to look at other sources of revenue. The only concrete plan she presented for financing was to appoint a committee to evaluate current spending and identify potential savings and potential new revenue sources.

* * * *

How can she run for governor against Rick Perry, using transportation as her major issue, and not be prepared with an answer that at least shows a grasp of the problem? Indeed, she could watch a video that is on her web site and hear another politician provide some ideas. It’s Perry, saying things like, “There are no ‘free’ ways. There are toll roads, slow roads, or no roads.”

Everybody with the slightest interest in transportation policy understands what the options are. We can raise the gasoline tax statewide. We can index the tax to inflation. We can have local option gasoline taxes. We can borrow the money by issuing bonds and going further into debt. We can end the billion-plus dollars of diversions to DPS and other recipients (but if we do that, how will we fund DPS?). Or we can build toll roads. Appointing a committee to evaluate current spending and identify potential savings and potential new revenue sources is an embarrassingly weak response. We already have all sorts of folks who do what she suggests–the Legislative Budget Board, Senate Finance, House Appropriations, for starters. And the state comptroller. The problem is not a lack of smart people who can scrub the budget. It gets scrubbed every session. The problem is the lack of political will and leadership to propose a solution.

Texas is heading for a financial crisis. The budget has a structural deficit. Our needs are growing and our income is not. What is she going to do about that? This ought to be the first question in the gubernatorial debate.

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