CAMPAIGN 2012

Under Perry, Texas has racked up debt for transportation needs

Texas road infrastructure has not kept up with the influx of people coming into the state for its pro-business policies, meaning the average urban Texan spends one week every year sitting in traffic congestion on one of the state's highways.

During the 10 years that Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has been governor, the state has put little investment into road repairs, preferring instead to accumulate debt.

The state will owe $17.3 billion by the end of 2012 for its road repairs made since 2003. For the first time in its history, the Texas Legislature put more money toward debt service than to pay for new roads.

Although the Legislature also approved using $3 billion in funds approved by voters in 2007, the state must pay $65 million for every $1 billion it borrows through bond sales.

The money approved by the Legislature will cover only a fraction of the state's estimated $488 billion highway construction needs. Meanwhile, gasoline tax revenues, which are used to pay for road construction, are down because Texans are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles.

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Perry supported the creation of a Trans-Texas Corridor that would have relied on foreign investment and tolls to pay for it, but property owners' complaints about the use of eminent domain derailed the project. In 2007, Perry shot down a plan by state Sen. John Carona (R) to let local communities increase their own gas taxes.

Next legislative session, lawmakers will not be able to fund any highway construction without accumulating more debt. Some lawmakers have argued that borrowing is costing Texans more in the long term.

"The conservative thing to do would be to limit borrowing capacity and put more cash in," said state Rep. Joe Pickett (D) (Hart/Scharrer, Houston Chronicle, Aug. 16). -- AP

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