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There’s trouble brewing in Austin. The “Kings of Texas” are coming for your liberty and your wallets! (Updated)

Date posted: March 18, 2013

Calling all grassroots conservatives in Texas!  
Sound the alarm! 

Last night there was a Statewide Conference Call with JoAnn Fleming (Director Grassroots America & TEA Party Caucus Advisory Committee Chair) and Terri Hall (TURF Director & Founder – Texas United for Reform & Freedom)

So Did you make it on the call last night? 

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Texas TURF Texas United for Freedom

Here are some resources from Texas Turf (Texas United for Reform and Freedom) 
Helpful resources:Download:
TURF’s Legislative Agenda for the 2013 83rd Texas Legislature.
Fact Sheet on Why It’s Anti-Taxpayer to Privatize our Public Roads (using CDAs/PPPs).
What do we want? Pro-taxpayer Transportation Policy
Abuses of Tolling
OUTRAGEOUS Facts Sheet
Pay-as-you-go funding of road construction can be done with a comprehensive transportation package, which should include:

 

  • State government restructuring to eliminate overlapping, duplicated effort;phase-out of funding for budget items beyond the core constitutional responsibilities of state government;
  • TxDOT operational reforms & increased transparency;
  • Reigning in flagrant waste (documented) via “local control” RMAs, MPOs and COGs spending millions on “enhancements”;
  • Refocus on building highways to relieve traffic congestion – not funding light rail, street cars, biking/hiking trails, parks and roads for economic development (the “build it and they will come” scenario);
  • Ending diversions;
  • Dedicating vehicle sales and use tax revenue to highway construction (the Nichols Plan – SB 287);
  • Early debt retirement, if approved by the people (the Eltife Plan – Constitutional Amendment via SJR 47)

Reforms Required as part of the package:

 

  • Return to pay-as-you-go; no more public road debt (state or local).
  • Make all toll viability studies OPEN to the public (currently kept SECRET) – (HB 2870 – Capriglione)
  • No more Public Private Partnerships (P3s), handing control of our Texas infrastructure to private, even foreign, corporations. This applies to roads and other public facilities such as the Capitol Complex. No more use of eminent domain for private gain.
  • No more public subsidies, credit enhancements, or loan guarantees for any type of toll project.
  • Comprehensive financial audit of TxDOT prior to the agency’s next sunset review in 2015 to gain efficiencies and end practices that drive-up costs, e. g., Design-Build CDAs, P3s, and multi-million dollar “enhancements” that have nothing to do with moving traffic.

New Revenues:

 

  • End diversions of all road user fees (motor fuel tax, vehicle sales tax, tire sales, auto parts sales tax) to non-transportation uses.
  • Phase-in motor vehicle sales/use tax revenues to the Highway Fund, consistent with Nichols’ SB 287.

Constitutional restrictions on the use of New Revenues

 

  • No diversions: May only be used for planning, design, construction of new state highway system road capacity and the maintenance of this new capacity once built.
  • Not Used for Toll Roads: May not be used on comprehensive development agreements or projects involving the construction of toll lanes.
  • No Debt: Shall be used for pay-as-you go projects and may not be used as backing for new debt financing (whether at the state or local level).
  • No non-road expenditures: None of these funds may be used for any expense related to bike trails, transit or pedestrian walkways.

Read more: 2013 (83rd legislative session)

The Problem: Anti-liberty Legislation is ALIVE and WELL in Austin!  Establishment Republicans who do not share our values have plans for you:

  • Plans to mushroom state debt with 100 YEAR BONDS.
  • Plans to push debt down to the local level, opening the door for MORE PROPERTY TAX INCREASES.
  • Plans to hand out more taxpayer dollars to well-connected special interests via CORPORATE WELFARE.
  • Plans to SABOTAGE THE TERM LIMITS BILLS in the House and Senate.
  • Plans to build ALL future state highways as CORPORATE TOLL ROADS and sell them off to foreign multinationals (the TransTexas Corridor plan blown up all across the state).
  • Plans to use eminent domain power for PRIVATE GAIN via transportation policy.
  • Plans to continue the ACCOUNTING GIMMICKS and SMOKE AND MIRRORS to “balance” the state budget on paper while running up more debt.
  • Plans to expand Medicaid in the quest for ObamaCare dollars–bankrupting our state in the process.

The Solution:  YOU ARE THE SOLUTION.
Nobody’s coming to save us–but US!       

TURF2

Watch out for liberal and moderate legislators signing up to support Second Amendment and pro-life legislation while stealing your liberty and your children’s future!  Don’t be fooled!  We must look at THE ENTIRE RECORD — not just the easy votes.  It’s easy to support the 2nd Amendment and be pro-life in Texas…even liberal Republicans can, but they hide a multitude of other sins under those two important issues, hoping you won’t look at the rest of their record!  Don’t let them get away with it! 

This is the first of a series of regular calls planned to keep grassroots Texans informed during the session.  

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Alice Linahan

 

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Grassroots coalition calls on Perry, Dewhurst, & Straus to lead the way on a new vision for roads

Date posted: March 13, 2013

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Texans want leadership to implement new vision for roads

TURF – Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom

TURF

Sensible bills should not be held hostage to promote special interests, more road debt, tax hikes, and budget-busting tolls that will only burden small businesses, families, seniors, and young adults on limited income!
(Austin, TX, March 12, 2013) – On Tuesday morning, Texans from across the state converged at the capitol to stress the need for Texas Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, and House and Senate budget writers to prevent the most fiscally sound, long-term road funding solutions from being held hostage to more tolls, debt, and tax hikes. Activist leaders Terri Hall (TURF) and JoAnn Fleming (TEA Party Caucus Advisory Committee Chair and Grassroots America director) sounded the alarm to Texans that soon every major road will be tolled, and foreign corporations can take over our  roadways, driving up the cost of daily travel with unfettered tolling. 

“Texans don’t take kindly to unelected boards and commissions raising taxes on them, and that is just what these toll agencies can and will do if we don’t change course now,” warned TURF’s founder and director, Terri Hall.

Hall says the word around the capitol is that the bills that would solve the road-funding shortfall by dedicating the existing vehicle sales tax (SB 287/HB 782) to roads — have been sent to the budget committees to die. 

“They don’t want to prioritize spending in order to get the money we already pay in taxes over to roads,” fumed Hall.  “Instead, the Governor (in support of SB 1632) wants Texans to pay back their own tax money with interest through tolls or local tax hikes for all these toll projects that can’t pay for themselves without taxpayer bail outs.”

“If our leaders insist on dealing with the problem with more tax hikes, more tolls, and more debt, there will be a voter revolt. People are already saddled with higher payroll and income taxes from Washington, DC, and property taxes and local debt are rising around most of the state. Just as we cannot afford more tax and spend from government, we cannot afford more borrow and spend for roads,” insists JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director of Grassroots America.  

“Some of the folks inside this building are the architects of this debt cliff with their fairy tale, smoke and mirrors budgeting and creative financing – they’ve maxed out the credit card. We can get out of it, but it will take leadership and somebody standing up for the taxpayers,” Fleming said. 

She added, “If our wallets are the first solution they will be the only solution that survives the session. We aren’t going to give anybody a green light for raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees until our leaders clear the debris they put in the road, out of the road.” 

Proposals the Coalition Opposes
Governor Perry’s endorsed solution is to redirect federal highway funds into the State Infrastructure Bank (SB 1632) to be used to guarantee toxic local toll road debt and even mass transit projects, (which these funds currently cannot be used to do). Perry’s proposal also encourages local taxes and tax hikes to bailout toll projects that can’t pay for themselves.

Terri Hall says this won’t solve the funding problem in a fiscally-sound, transparent way. “If this is the solution, Texans will not be able to get to work or get their kids to school without paying $10 or more a day to get across town. It’s insane, especially when gas prices are going through the roof! How is this not a tax hike?” asks Hall.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Tommy Williams proposes (SJR 38) a similar loan guarantee program for economic development toll road and mass transit projects using the Rainy Day Fund as well as a separate proposal (SJR 39) to increase vehicle registration fees to build new road capacity. Neither solve the long-term road funding shortfalls nor get the state back to pay-as-you-go. 

Unsustainable Debt Spiral
Securing a reliable, long-term source of revenue, coupled with operational reforms, are necessary for cost-effective highway planning and the avoidance of more debt; however, the state has no sustainable policy for funding roads. The Grant Thornton audit of 2010 states that our debt path is unsustainable. According to an April 24, 2012, Associated Press account (citing federal data), Texas leads the nation in road debt ($31 billion, principle and interest). This is supported by documents provided by Senator Robert Nichols, which show debt (principle only) to be $23 billion.

Incurring more road debt, whether at the state or local level, is not fiscally responsible, conservative, nor sustainable. Several sources have also indicated that there are no more viable toll projects in the state — where the tolls could ever hope to pay for the expense of the road without considerable taxpayer subsidies.We must return to pay-as-you-go.

Raising Taxes Not the Answer
“Any tax collected from road users should be going to fund roads first, especially before any politician asks us to dig deeper into our pockets to fund roads with tax hikes and more tolls,” contends Hall. “Tolls are taxes the way they’re being done in Texas today, since $10 billion in public funds are going to build toll roads, yet they’re still charging us a toll to drive on them.”

Conservatives feel the state leadership is behaving as politicians in Washington do – holding out for tax increases so they don’t have to cut spending and reform TxDOT.

“Texans are fed-up with out-of-control government that never gets its priorities straight, and keeps asking us to pay more when the taxes already collected aren’t going for their intended purpose,” reiterated Fleming. 

Gas tax a source of diminishing funding
The state gas tax, the primary source of revenue for TxDOT, has been unchanged for 20 years. This has caused a reliance on toll roads to bridge the funding gap, which costs Texans prohibitively more than a tax-funded road (1-2 cents a mile vs. 15 – 75 cents a mile for tolls). 

We cannot expect to build today’s roads with a 20-year-old revenue source. This structural shortfall must be addressed without more tolls, more debt, and more taxes. 

Between 1990 – 2012, Texas state spending rose 310%, while population growth plus inflation totaled only 132%. [Source:  Texas Public Policy Foundation analysis of Legislative Budget Board documents]. Lawmakers should refocus on the core constitutional functions of state government.

Comprehensive transportation package needed
The proper pay-as-you-go funding of road construction can be done with a comprehensive transportation package, which should include:

– State government restructuring to eliminate overlapping, duplicated effort;
– Phase-out of funding for budget items beyond the core constitutional responsibilities of state government;
– TxDOT operational reforms;
– Reigning in flagrant waste (documented) via “local control” RMAs, MPOs and COGs spending millions on “enhancements”;
– Refocus on building highways to relieve traffic congestion – not funding light rail, street cars, biking/hiking trails, parks and roads for economic development (the “build it and they will come” scenario); 
– Ending diversions;  
– Dedicating vehicle sales and use tax revenue to highway construction (the Nichols Plan – SB 287);
– Early debt retirement, if approved by the people (the Eltife Plan – Constitutional Amendment via SJR 47)

State leaders should work together on this commonsense, taxpayer-friendly transportation package by first actively supporting Nichols’ bill (SB 287) which phases in the dedication of vehicles sales/use tax to roads. A dedicated vehicle sales tax revenue stream will keep pace with inflation on its own and help meet the growing transportation needs of Texas. 

The vehicle sales tax currently represents $3.3 billion a year (and growing), and coupled with ending gas tax diversions, which the Governor estimates is $650 million a year, it gets the State very close to the $4 billion it needs to build and maintain our state highway system. The Nichols’ phase-in facilitates long-range TxDOT construction planning, and it does not provide a sudden shock to general revenues, since the vehicle sales tax is growing so rapidly.

Summary of solutions
The conservative activist leaders admit their recommendations are not easy, but insist they are workable, sustainable solutions a majority of voters will support to end the current “borrow and spend” cycle:

Reforms:
 – Return to pay-as-you-go; no more public road debt (state or local). 
 – No more Public Private Partnerships (P3s), handing control of our Texas infrastructure to private, even foreign, corporations. This applies to roads and other public facilities such as the Capitol Complex. No more use of eminent domain for private gain.
 – No more public subsidies, credit enhancements, or loan guarantees for any type of toll project.
– Comprehensive financial audit of TxDOT prior to the agency’s next   sunset review in 2015 to gain efficiencies and end practices that drive-up costs, e. g., Design-Build CDAs, P3s, and multi-million dollar “enhancements” that have nothing to do with moving traffic.

New Revenues:
– End diversions of all road user fees (motor fuel tax, vehicle sales tax, tire sales, auto parts sales tax) to non-transportation uses.
– Phase-in motor vehicle sales/use tax revenues to the Highway Fund, consistent with Nichols’ SB 287.

Constitutional restrictions on the use of New Revenues
– No diversions: May only be used for planning, design, construction of new state highway system road capacity and the maintenance of this new capacity once built.
– Not Used for Toll Roads:  May not be used on comprehensive development agreements or projects involving the construction of toll lanes.
– No Debt:  Shall be used for pay-as-you go projects and may not be used as backing for new debt financing (whether at the state or local level).
– No non-road expenditures:  None of these funds may be used for any expense related to bike trails, transit or pedestrian walkways.

Hall emphasized, “Implementing these reforms, securing all existing transportation-related taxes, and dedicating these taxes to a ‘roads-only priority plan’ will restore an affordable, pay-as-you-go, pro-taxpayer, pro-freedom transportation policy for all Texans.”

“Since we believe the people are taxed enough already, and we know other solutions exist to fund needed road construction, we promise two things:  1) we will work with the leaders on the transportation package; and 2) we will make ending the ‘innovative financing’ gimmicks, waste, and debt spiral a campaign issue in the next election cycle,” concludes Fleming.

Women On the Wall  takes on the issues that matter. Sharing information and updates on our weekly radio show on Monday mornings at 10 am CST. You will not want to miss this show. We will have up to date information on CSCOPE  and guests who are the experts on education and other issues that are effecting our children and grandchildren.

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Knowledge is Power and together we can make the difference!!

Alice Linahan

Follow @AliceLinahan on twitter and Facebook 

Voices Empower has partnered the Freedom Trailer Teams to Educate, Inspire and Motivate.

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They think Texas is for Sale- Bad Bill Alert – We need your help to stop SB 1048

Date posted: May 22, 2011

BAD BILL ALERT
Calls needed to STOP

This Bill Alert provided by: TURF

SB 1048
They think Texas is for Sale
SB 1048 is like the Trans Texas Corridor for
everything BUT roads
Call your State Representative (House member) first thing Monday morning and tell them to:

VOTE NO ON SB 1048! Texas is NOT for sale!

Find your State Representative here.
Call the Capitol Switchboard at (512) 463-4630(Open 8 AM – 5 PM weekdays)
SB 1048 (Jackson) – This bill is on the General State Calendar for Monday and would privatize virtually every kind of public infrastructure except roads and charge user fees or lease payments (Sec. 2267.057) for the public to access its own buildings: schools, hospitals, nursing homes, water supply facilities, ports, mass transit, libraries, public buildings of all sorts, even telecommunications and pipelines. Apparently Texas is for sale, and this bill would be Katie-Bar-the-Door on selling off virtually everything not nailed down. The bill was written by British infrastructure firm, Balfour Beatty.
We say ‘sale’ not ‘lease’ because these firms depreciate these ‘assets’ on their taxes and when you give control of something to an entity for 50 or 100 years, it’s effective ownership (especially if Uncle Sam and the IRS treat it that way). There’s no limit on the length of time a PPP can last (one example given in Austin was for 100 YEARS) or whether such broad authority expires.
Two of the biggest anti-taxpayer provisions are the fact taxpayers secure the private entity’s debt (2267.061 (f)) and authorizes public subsidies for private profits by raiding taxpayer money through the State Infrastructure Bank to loan or grant money to a PRIVATE ENTITY, which is currently NOT authorized in law (Sec. 2267.060 (2)).
Eminent domain for private gain
PPPs represent eminent domain for private gain, which is what caused much of the backlash to the Trans Texas Corridor, where CDAs/PPPs were the financing mechanism that grants these private entities the control of not just the facility, but the right of way/surrounding property where they make a killing on concessions. The bill (Sec. 2267.001 (10) (a)) grants the private entity rights to apurtenance, which the legal definition given by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law is property (as an outbuilding or fixture) or a property right (as a right of way) that is incidental to a principal property and that passes with the principal property upon sale or transfer.”
In Sec. 2267.002, the bill also uses “public purpose” (which could mean a shopping mall) as opposed to the stricter “public use” (to ensure the taking is for a legitimate public necessity).
New authority granted
The bill analysis specifically says it GRANTS AUTHORITY to local units of government to enter into Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). The bill’s supporters claim cities and counties are already entering into PPPs (which they apparently lack the legal authority to do) so we need to give guidelines or try to impose some limitations on them because right now it’s sky’s the limit. If the bill is permissive, how is that solving the problem? The Legislature should be banning PPPs altogether not granting authority to enter into them and make the “guidelines” permissive. So we’re basically granting entities a blank check.
Sweetheart deals, government-sanctioned monopolies
The bill requires entities to use a design build method of procurement which eliminates low bid competitive bidding and replaces it with “best value” bidding, rife with abuses and favoritism.
Michelle Malkin has called PPPs corporate welfare, we agree. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were PPPs, and we know how well those turned out for taxpayers. There are far more examples of PPPs being a taxpayer disaster than those that have worked out well. We’re not willing to bet this crap shoot will favor the public interest. PPPs socialize the losses and privatize the profits.
Public interest not protected, kept secret from public

These contracts can be negotiated  in SECRET, without financial disclosures (like financing, the structure of the ‘user fees’ or lease payments, viability studies, public subsidies, or whether or not it contains non-compete clauses or other gotcha provisions), under the “trade secrets and financial records exception in the bill (Section 2267.067 (1)(B)(c) & (g)).

The only oversight required is by the Comptroller and only periodically, not EVERY contract and not prior to signing it. The Partnership Advisory Commission is NOT required to review the contracts included as riders in the budget (nor would it haveveto power if it’s determined that the contract is not in the public interest), and it simply exists to advise the governmental entities outside the public purview.

Sec. 2267.057 allows a private entity “to collect lease payments, impose user fees.” This means a private entity will have the power to levy a tax. The public cannot pressure nor hold accountable a private corporation if the “fee” or “tax” is too high. A private entity ought NEVER to have the power to tax our citizens! It’s the marriage of the corporation with the state and grants monopolies to private entities for a private benefit.

PPPs and this bill violate the public trust and your fiduciary duty to Texas taxpayers. It’s piracy of the public’s assets.

Provided by Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
CONTACT: Terri Hall, Founder, Texas TURF, (210) 275-0640, WEB: http://www.texasturf.org, EMAIL: terri_2@commonsensecitizens.net
Texas TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending Texans’ concerns with toll road policy, Trans Texas Corridor-style projects like public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuses. TURF promotes non-toll transportation solutions.
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