Texas Leaders Ask Trump to ‘Nix’ Tolls in His Infrastructure Plan

While some have called the Trump proposal DOA on Capitol Hill, Texans are taking nothing for granted and made the trip to D.C. to deliver it to the White House personally to ensure the President got the message from a ‘BIG Red State’ with 38 electoral votes — “we don’t want tolls!”


By Terri Hall l May 2, 2018

The Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition voiced its strong opposition to parts of the Trump Infrastructure Plan, which calls for toll roads and corporate welfare public-private partnerships. Led by Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Texans for Toll-free Highways, and Grassroots America – We the People, the coalition’s opposition was voiced in a letter to President Donald J. Trump and expresses widespread displeasure among Texas conservative grassroots leaders with Trump’s infrastructure plan.

While some have called the Trump proposal DOA on Capitol Hill, Texans are taking nothing for granted and made the trip to D.C. to deliver it to the White House personally to ensure the President got the message from a ‘BIG Red State’ with 38 electoral votes — “we don’t want tolls!”

Texas was among three key states on November 8, 2016, including Florida and North Carolina that tossed incumbents over toll projects – all three must-win states for a Republican president.

JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director for Grassroots America – We the People PAC put it this way, “We are much more confident that Texas – under the leadership of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick – will make much sounder transportation decisions than the far-flung bureaucracy in Washington, which makes no actual progress in stopping wasteful practices or balancing the federal budget! This is why we support a federal block grant of our federal highway funds back to Texas with a bare minimum of federal strings.”

TURF hand-delivered copies to all U.S. House Members serving on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, as well as all U.S. Senators serving on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (the committee that handles surface transportation legislation). In all, TURF visited more than 75 offices in D.C., many of which were sit-down meetings with Congressional Members and the President’s senior staff.

The Coalition also delivered the letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, urging the Governor to stand strong against tolls as he promised to fix Texas roads without new toll taxes. The Regional Transportation Council (RTC) has proposed to defy the Governor, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and other state elected officials, like Sen. Bob Hall and Sen. Don Huffines, who represent the area. The RTC plan advocates adding two toll managed lanes as part of the expansion of I-635 E from US 75 to I-30. According to a Dallas Morning News article, it appeared the Governor would go along. However, Abbott’s Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg made the Governor’s intentions crystal clear in a letter to the RTC that he expected a non-toll solution or no deal.

In 2015, the legislature passed House Bill 20, requiring TxDOT to put explicit policies in place to ensure the highest priority projects got funded first. Yet, that’s not what happened. The majority of the new funds were allocated to low priority projects, by design, so that TxDOT could claim there’s not enough money to fix the big urban projects. This incentivizes local governments to tap a toll revenue stream for the most congested roads, which creates unaccountable slush funds outside the reach of taxpayers.

Grassroots America’s Fleming says, “This is just another problem of TxDOT’s own making. The voters gave them $5 billion more per year in new funding (with passage of Prop 1 & 7), and they squandered it on low priority projects so they could cry poverty in urban areas and slap tolls on commuters already choking under the burden of toll taxes. Special corporate interests, promoted by anti-taxpayer local government shills, benefit most from these unfettered tolling and multi-leveraging schemes.”

Fleming added, “Working families across Texas have made it abundantly clear that they do not want more toll roads. In fact, 90% of Republican Primary voters approved of a March 6 ballot resolution that stated, ‘No governmental entity should ever construct or fund construction of toll roads without voter approval.’ This means the Republican base has Gov. Abbott’s back on his strong opposition to more toll roads and more debt. His base wants him to keep his campaign promises.”

The RTC’s actions indicate its refusal to abide by the Governor’s policy, and it believes if the RTC and local governments lobby hard enough, they can get him to cave. It would become the playbook used as a model by every other local board, and Texans would end up with tolls everywhere after the Governor promised no more.

The Coalition applauds Abbott’s challenge to local governments on an array of anti-liberty and anti-taxpayer local ordinances like restrictions placed on ride share companies, Airbnb, and more, and they expect him to continue to keep his promises for the highway system directly under the jurisdiction of the State of Texas


Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of ten turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the conservative-online-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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