Monday, July 27, 2009

NAFTA Highway Dealt Another Serious Blow

NAFTA Highway Dealt Another Serious Blow

By Mark Anderson

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TEXAS-BASED COMPREHENSIVE Development Agreements, or CDAs, that could have transformed a number of freeways into foreign controlled tollways—charging cash-strapped motorists up to 75 cents a mile—were dealt another serious blow July 2 as Gov. Rick Perry’s special legislative session that was called July 1 drew to a close.

Opponents to his tolling-the-freeways agenda ran up the victory flag once again. Thus, “any private investment in the road business dies as of Aug. 31,” was how Hank Gilbert of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, or TURF, assessed the situation.

Gilbert told AFP: “Perry is getting his head beaten in,” meaning that the special session that the Republican governor called not long after the regular legislative session adjourned on May 31, bore no fruit for Perry, who had hoped to get these CDA/public-private partnerships approved.

Because “the CDAs never made it to the House floor,” the state Senate did not even lift a finger, Gilbert told AFP around 3 p.m. local time on July 2.

Only CDAs that have already been approved can move forward. AMERICAN FREE PRESS will monitor how many of those exist and search for piecemeal infrastructure projects that could quietly move small segments of the Trans-Texas Corridor system forward. But the TTC portion of the NAFTA Superhighway has been dealt numerous delays and it seems doubtful that the large number of tough, active Texans involved in this fight will ever allow that free-trade super-corridor to straddle the huge Lone Star State as part of the North American Union plan. At some point TTC backers will have to give up. But other segments of the NAFTA highway system in other southern states and coming from Canada are still an issue.

Two other Texas bills that Trans-Texas Corridor foes disdained—HB1 and SB1—were amended in the special session so drastically that previous schemes to raid pension funds and other financial skullduggery to help CDAs and put a couple billion dollars outside of legislative oversight were rendered harmless. The state’s Transportation Commission, in league with TxDOT, would have been able to handle the funds independently. Improper TTC promotion and help for CDA’s may have resulted.

In fact, the $2 billion at stake now goes where it should go: half to the State Infrastructure Bank and half to the Texas Department of Transportation’s general fund, according to Gilbert. He was visiting state legislators as he talked with AFP for late developments.

“None of the money [the $2 billion] can be used for CDAs or toll roads,” Gilbert said. However, the “safety net” bill that was known as HR 1959 as the regular legislative session ended—but which died back then due to inaction and technically put TxDOT on the road to abolition—was expected to pass July 2. Otherwise, TxDOT would sunset in September. And the Texas Legislature does not meet again in regular session until 2011.

But TURF and the San Antonio Toll Party, the two main anti-TTC, anti-toll groups, want TxDOT to exist. They simply want the agency to honor its mandate to maintain and improve the busy Texas infrastructure system with gas taxes and no use of tax dollars to promote and lobby for the TTC international tollway or any related matters.

HB 300, a bill that would have advanced CDAs, among other things, also died from inaction in the late hours of May 31. The grassroots activism against these Texas schemes is among the most aggressive and successful seen. But you’d never know that judging from the establishment press. As holiday tea parties called for reforms in general, these Texans have been doing the actual work to advance freedom and independence by straining their budgets and contributing time away from their families for extended periods shadowing state legislators.

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