trans-texas corridor

Rick Perry

Jan 20, 2013 By Evan Smith

“We’ve got roads to build and agencies to fix and health care to be dispensed and cancers to cure. And that’s what I’m focusing on.”

Is the Trans-Texas Corridor the next Perry flip-flop?

Aug 15, 2011 By Paul Burka

He had already reversed himself on his statement that it was fine with him if New York chose to allow gay marriage; it was a matter of states’ rights. Now he is reversing himself on his HPV edict of 2007. A couple of things to remember about that episode: One…

Rick, Kay, and Eminent Domain

Oct 23, 2009 By Paul Burka

This was the Hutchison campaign’s daily blast at Perry for today: Rick Perry continues to avoid critical questions about the Trans-Texas Corridor. While he may think his proposal to seize nearly 600,000 acres of private property is dead and a settled matter, the question for some has turned to how…

Cronyism and the Corridor

Oct 12, 2009 By Paul Burka

This is a scary story. The Statesman reported yesterday that Governor Perry is removing Linus Wright, a former Dallas school superintendent, as chair of the board that oversees the $88 billion Teacher Retirement System and will replace him with a current board member who is also a member of Perry's campaign finance team, Dallas real estate investor R. David Kelly. (Wright succeeded Jim Lee, who was one of three co-chairs of the Perry fundraising apparatus; Lee had resigned in the wake of news reports that he had run up six-figure gambling debts in Las Vegas.) The removal of Wright occurred just a few days after Perry had announced the death of the Trans-Texas Corridor. The juxtaposition of events reminds me of the old Mark Twain line: "Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated." The concern is that the governor's office has installed a crony as chairman who will urge the board to invest retirement system funds in toll roads as a means to pump money into funding-starved TxDOT. Perry appointees who don't go along--as we have learned in the case of board of regents and the Forensic Science Commission--are likely to find themselves replaced. I'm not just being an alarmist here. Remember, in the summer of 2008, Perry, Dewhurst, and Craddick signed a letter agreeing to work together to find a way to pay for new roads. An earlier Statesman story about the agreement said: One prong of the plan would create a Transportation Finance Corporation to allow state investment funds — including the state employee and teacher retirement systems, among others — to directly invest in state transportation projects. Combined, the two state systems manage $135 billion in assets. But TRS and ERS officials "took a cautious view of investing in state projects in testimony this year before the Senate Finance Committee, saying a mandate to invest in Texas infrastructure could conflict with their duty to find the best return on investment for retirees."

Is the Trans-Texas Corridor really dead?

Oct 9, 2009 By Paul Burka

The flap over the Corridor reminds me of a law school hypothetical. If A shoots B, inflicting a wound so serious that death is imminent, and C then fires a second shot, which also would be fatal, moments before B expires, is C guilty of murder? The answer is yes.

Hutchison to get Farm Bureau endorsement?

Oct 3, 2009 By Paul Burka

A commenter to my blog post, “More on the Perry Agenda,” suggests that because of Perry’s support for the Trans-Texas Corridor, Hutchison is likely to get the Farm Bureau endorsement. While comments on blogs are hardly reliable sources, I find this one credible because (1) a Republican consultant told me…

The Week in Review

Mar 8, 2009 By Paul Burka

This post has been revised since its initial publication. 1. The Tom Schieffer candidacy. Patricia Kilday Hart and I interviewed Tom Schieffer about his race for the Democratic nomination governor. Interestingly, Schieffer asked to go off the record before the interview to discuss the events that led to his being named one of the Ten Worst legislators in 1975. That was my first year to participate in the writing of the story, along with my then-colleague, Griffin Smith. The writeup was one of the toughest that we have ever written. It was full of anonymous quotes, which we seldom use today. Nowadays, the writeups are largely based on the public record. Schieffer was involved in one of the session's biggest fights, an effort to authorize Texas's first presidential primary in order to aid U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen's bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 1976. The Texas Democratic party in that era was split into liberal and conservative wings, and Schieffer was a conservative Democrat. The liberals were fighting him hard all the way, including my former mentor, Babe Schwartz, and I am sure that that influenced the writeup. The ink was hardly dry on the issue before I began to have second thoughts about whether Schieffer really deserved being on the Worst list. The bill did pass, and Texas did have its first primary--not that it helped Bentsen, who was overwhelmed in his home state by Jimmy Carter. Schieffer has gone on to have a successful career as an oil and gas operator, as president of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and as ambassador to Australia and Japan in the George W. Bush administration. He should be considered a legitimate candidate for governor. The Ten Worst article was 34 years ago. There are lot of obstacles in the path of a Schieffer candidacy, but that article shouldn't be one of them. The main obstacles, of course, are Schieffer's association with Bush and his well motivated, but ultimately self-defeating, unwillingness to distance himself from his friend and former Rangers' business partner; his reluctance as a candidate, including the question of whether he will put his own money into the campaign; and--how do I put this?--a question of whether he has a feel for contemporary Texas politics. I had the feeling, talking to him, that he has one foot in the present and one foot in the seventies, when conservative Democrats ran the state. He still talks about Lloyd Bentsen and John Connally. Connally and Bentsen and Hobby were giants in their day, and they ran things a heck of a lot better than the Republicans have, but Schieffer so far seems like he is just putting his toes in the water. He needs to jump in. 2. The transportation stimulus package. Transportation is one area where the stimulus package can produce real jobs and have real economic benefits. So why is the amount so small--just $2.5 billion overall, and $1.2 billion in the first installment? One of the reasons is that Obama wants to invest in high-speed rail rather than roads. I think this is a mistake. I'd like to see more of the money go to highways and less to high-speed rail. High-speed rail requires total grade separation. For rural Texas, it will make the Trans-Texas Corridor battle look like a walk in the park. I ran some numbers back in the early nineties, when the idea of a bullet train was first floated, and to break even on the project's then $6 billion cost, trains had to run 97% full between Houston and Dallas 24 hours a day. Like it or not, the most efficient method of getting people from point A to point B is one lane of freeway. In an hour, it carries six times the number of people as rail, and the cost is approximately the same. Politically, the most important aspect of the transportation funding battle was the continuing hostility between TxDOT and the Legislature. TxDOT froze lawmakers out of the discussion of which projects should be funded, with the result that 70% of the money will go to toll roads. Legislators did not cover themselves with glory either, as some took the opportunity to lobby for projects in their districts. The level of mistrust of TxDOT is as high as it has ever been--thanks to Commissioner Ted Houghton, who decided to do a little bomb-throwing of his own at the March 5 meeting of the Texas Highway Commission, calling one of the witnesses and the organization he represents "idiots." Senator Hegar fired off a letter to Houghton, which included the following observations:

State of the Governor’s Race

Jan 27, 2009 By Paul Burka

The context of Perry’s State of the State speech is that it takes place during a governor’s race in which he is no better than even-money to win. His remarks will be closely watched for clues about how he plans to position himself in his career-risking battle against Kay Bailey…