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The Transportation Problem

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“Transparency” is a word that is frequently invoked in the Capitol. But it is honored more often in the breach than the observance. Take the current battle over transportation funding. The problem is that the state has chosen to finance transportation by issuing bonds. This is a clever way to fool the public into thinking they are getting their roads free. The public votes for the bonds and eventually the roads will be built. In fact, however, building roads with bonds is the most expensive way to do it, as lawmakers have learned in recent years.

The bonds have to be paid off, and the ultimate cost of the roads is much higher than would have been the case had we paid for the roads with cash or, heaven forbid, a tax increase. But all the politicians can slap one another on the back and say, “We didn’t raise taxes.” True, we didn’t raise taxes, but we wound up spending a lot more money than if we had raised taxes. The most expensive way to pay for roads is with debt. That’s why TxDOT doesn’t have the money to build more roads. There is nothing transparent about roadbuilding. The public has no idea that by voting for road bonds, they significantly raised the cost of those roads.

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