Friday, November 07, 2008

"Texas transportation policy shouldn't be a pretext for paying off Wall Street campaign contributors with big-government boondoggles like the TTC. "

GOP: Beware of Political Quicksand


Will Lutz
Volume 13 Issue 14
The Lone Star Report
Copyright 2008

Since most Republican lawmakers go to church, they’ve probably sung the refrain, “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.” It’s a hymn that kept going though my head as I watched the election results come in.

The GOP has built its foundation on quicksand, and Tuesday, the voters told the GOP — nationally and in Texas — that they’ve had enough. The voters sent the same message in 2006 and it didn’t register with the GOP leadership. Perhaps the second time is the charm. The quicksand here is the Austin lobby, a handful of purely self-interested major campaign contributors, and large corporate bureaucracies.

They’re fair weather friends, many of whom backed the Democrats throughout the 1990s.
Look at how much money business gave to the 20/20PAC—which is basically a conduit that allows elements within the business community to give money to moderate Democrats while having the outward appearance of being pro-GOP. And this cycle Texans for Lawsuit Reform also gave crucial support for Rep. Chuck Hopson (D-Jacksonville) in his 102-vote victory. In short, big money isn’t principled; it’s self-interested. And it will turn on Republicans whenever the political winds change. Pandering to big money is building a foundation on quicksand.

By contrast, conservative principles have stood the test of time. Low taxes, individual freedom, property rights, pro-life, pro-family, and personal responsibility combined with effective grassroots mobilizing is a solid foundation that will win every time.

Here are a few examples of quicksand:
  • Talking about cutting spending, and then passing earmark-laden federal appropriations bills that benefit vendors with lobbyists, not average citizens.
  • Making fighting illegal immigration a campaign issue,then having leadership scuttle any meaningful action on the topic because it means a few major donors might actually have to hire U.S. citizens and do things like pay them benefits so they aren’t a burden to taxpayer funded county hospital districts.
  • Not doing anything meaningful to put the lid on local government property tax increases and pandering to the trade associations that represent cities and counties.
  • Talking about personal responsibility for the poor on welfare all while passing bills that basically exempt big donors like homebuilder Bob Perry from paying fair compensation to homeowners who a jury finds were treated unreasonably by their builder.
  • Pursuing higher education policies that prioritize the spending desires of liberal university bureaucrats and the donors that back them, all the while making a college education unaffordable and letting university administrators go on a massive, unjustified spending spree while asking for little or no meaningful accountability in return.
  • Letting the same Wall Street crowd that have driven the economy into the ground run our transportation system. Texas transportation policy needs to benefit Texans, not merely a pretext for paying off Wall Street campaign contributors with big-government boondoggles like the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Yes, most Republicans would argue they’ve been treated unfairly by the Capitol press, and that their accomplishments have not been given the treatment they deserve. Yes, the GOP deserves some credit for balancing the 2003 budget without raising taxes and sweeping welfare reform as well as a solid-record on prolife, pro-family issues. But just because one has done some things right, doesn’t mean the press corps will or should let the GOP off the hook when Republicans misbehave.

Plus, a lot of the big accomplishments of the GOP came from 2003. Passing an eminent domain bill and real taxpayer protections would give GOP voters something to crow about again and generate more excitement for the party.

It’s also true that national trends affected the outcome of many of these urban races, and there may be some issues with the mechanics of how and where the GOP spent its money this cycle. That said, voters still respond to winning issues, convincingly stated, and that has been largely absent from both the state and federal GOP the last two cycles. Yes, the mischief at the national level played a role, but some of the problems the Texas GOP brought on itself.

Notice that there are no names of sitting legislators in this essay. That is deliberate. This isn’t personal.This is about enacting policies and running the House in a manner that is good for Texas. In my 10 years covering the Capitol, I have seen many lawmakers whom I used to write off grow and change into effective voices for their constituents.

In a decade of covering campaigns, I’ve heard a lot of GOP primary candidates talk about bringing Christian values to politics. Sure, all have sinned. But one shouldn’t champion bringing Christian values in politics and then condone legislation and actions that would make even the Money Changers in the Temple blush. Integrity and fair-play are as much Christian values as pro-life and pro-family.

In the next few days, Texas lawmakers will choose a leadership team for the 2009 session. The Republicans need to learn the lesson of the last two election cycles and ensure that, whatever leaders are chosen, the House will be run in a manner that makes Texas Republicans proud of the party once again.

Traditional values, individual freedom, politics run from the grassroots up. That’s a rock-solid foundation that really is truly of the party of Ronald Reagan.

© 2008 The Lone Star Report:

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Daugherty gets dumped by voters


Republican incumbent loses Travis commissioner's race

Incumbent Daugherty loses to Huber


Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

Democratic challenger Karen Huber beat Republican incumbent Gerald Daugherty in the Precinct 3 Travis County commissioner's race. Huber won with 48.5 percent of the vote, or 67,679 votes. Daugherty received 64,693 votes, or 46.3 percent of the vote, and Libertarian Wes Benedict got about 5 percent of the vote, or 7,088 votes.

Huber, a former Republican, challenged Daugherty on the grounds that development in western Travis County was out of control. Daugherty, who has served two terms as commissioner, pitched himself as a candidate willing to make tough choices such as with a controversial plan to build a series of toll roads. Benedict said anger over the toll road issue was his main reason for running.

© 2008 Austin American-Statesman:

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Meet the new Boss...... Same as the old Boss?

More Toll Roads Likely in US Future

Outgoing Transportation Department officials create office to lobby states over toll roads. Incoming president likely to continue effort.

Copyright 2008

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on Friday announced the creation of a new office whose primary goal will be to lobby state governments to convert their freeways into toll roads. While some congressional leaders expressed hope that the change represented by FHWA's new Office of Innovative Program Delivery would be reversed by the next administration, there is reason to believe that the incoming administration will continue supporting public private partnership (PPP) initiatives. For now, the toll road promotion office sits at the top of FHWA's organizational chart to emphasize its primary place within the federal transportation department.

"The Director of Innovative Program Delivery provides advice, guidance, and research support related to tolling and pricing initiatives and administers tolling authorities," Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters wrote. "[The office also] promotes the development and use of techniques associated with providing transportation in terms of innovative and non‑traditional funding sources, innovative contractual processes, and changing roles and responsibilities involved in designing, constructing, operating, maintaining, financing, obtaining, and procuring highway facilities."

These innovative and non-traditional funding mechanisms have caused concern among local and federal representatives in the wake of the ongoing financial crisis. US House Transportation Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D) and Highways Subcommittee Chairman Peter A. DeFazio (D) yesterday wrote to Secretary Peters to oppose the single-minded focus on tolling.

"The financial crisis and the tightening of credit markets have raised serious questions over the governance structure and financial viability of firms involved in a number of PPPs," Oberstar and DeFazio wrote. "The dependence of these firms on debt and asset inflation rather than income or cash flows to finance acquisitions and pay dividends to shareholders has raised questions concerning the sustainability of this model. It also highlights the risks and consequences of rushing into long-term deals that are not structured appropriately or do not contain sufficient contingencies to address unanticipated crisis."

The two chairmen attempted in their election day letter to pin the blame President George W. Bush (R) for the excessive emphasis on tolling.

"The Bush administration's rush to embrace and promote PPPs and other innovative financing arrangements may hurt future efforts to positively harness private investment and innovation for the public good," the congressional leaders wrote.

This, however, is the same type of arrangement called for in the Infrastructure Bank Act that is a key part of the agenda of President-elect Barack Obama (D). Obama hopes to establish the bank to provide $60 billion for infrastructure projects with "a preference for projects which leverage private financing, including public-private partnerships" (view details). Moreover, Senator Obama in March endorsed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's idea to charge a $9 toll on cars and a $22 toll for trucks that enter downtown Manhattan during working hours.

"I think Mayor Bloomberg's proposal for congestion pricing is a thoughtful and innovative approach to the problem," Obama told WNYC radio in March. "The basic notion that we should do what we can to reduce congestion, to reduce pollution, to reduce consumption of foreign oil and to then to reinvest dollars into our infrastructure in mass transit."

A copy of the Oberstar-DeFazio letter is available in a 130k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Letter to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters (US House of Representatives, Transportation Committee, 11/4/2008)

© 2008

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