By Terri Hall l November 9, 2011
Texas voters said a resounding ‘NO’ to expanding Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Transportation Reinvestment Zone (TRZ) authority to Lone Star State counties by defeating Proposition 4 on November 8. The Constitutional Amendment HJR 63 authored by Rep. Joe Pickett (D – El Paso) would have allowed counties to use property taxes and sales taxes collected in a TRZ to build more toll roads to help finance their trade corridor infrastructure. Border town, El Paso, created the first TRZ, including plans for the Zaragoza Port of Entry from Mexico. Houston would create its I-69 TRZ with its trade corridor running from the border crossings of Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville sweeping north to Texarkana and eventually connecting to Port Huron, Michigan at the Great Lakes. So the defeat of Prop 4 is also a defeat for Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature’s plan to slap tolls on virtually all new lanes to Texas roads to quietly and under the radar pay for their NAFTA trade corridor plans.
Using gas tax revenues to build toll roads is bad enough, but now trying to nab property taxes to build even more toll roads is beyond the pale. It’s refreshing to see the voters reject this anti-taxpayer and anti-property rights amendment, when past history shows virtually all amendments to the Texas Constitution get approved in these, very low turnout, off-year elections. Now let’s see if lawmakers in Austin get the message — Texans don’t want their tax money used to build roads and then have to pay again, through tolls, to drive on them just so Perry and his globalist allies can finance their NAFTA trade corridors.
The defeat of Prop 4 also signals a rejection of government abuse of property rights for Kelo-style economic development. Prop 4 would have given the government more coercive power to decide whose private property it wishes to “redevelop.” The ballot wording was vague and misleading. It failed to even mention tax increment financing, transportation reinvestment zone, or even the word ‘transportation.’ TURF launched a statewide campaign to educate voters about the amendment.
Cities already have TIF and TRZ authority. TRZs are as much about “economic development” as it is financing transportation projects, and means those who live in a zone will have their property taxes go up due to higher property values from the government-encouraged development. Property taxes aren’t going to go down once a county sells bonds dependent on ever increasing property tax appraisals.
The amendment was also linked to HB 563, authored by Pickett, which would have granted counties broad new authority, even to grant tax breaks to special interests in the zone and to use surpluses as a slush fund for virtually anything.
STATE OUTSOURCING TAX INCREASES
TRZs are a way for STATE legislators to punt on their responsibility to build and maintain STATE highways and their responsibility to end diversions of the gas tax to non-road uses. Raiding the State’s Highway Trust Fund is akin to Congress raiding the federal Highway Trust Fund or the Social Security Trust Fund. This allows the politicians on both sides of the aisle – Democrats and Republicans – to outsource tax increases for roads by passing it down to the LOCAL level. By using appraisal increases to pay for their pet transportation projects, it takes that revenue away from what cities and counties usually use that money to fund. So it would likely necessitate further property tax increases in order to make up for the shortfall in city and county services that will be diverted to transportation.
Why is all this important? Simply stated, because Texas – its governor and legislature – lead the nation in tolling authority, toll road construction, public private partnership (PPP/P3) contracts and trade corridor development – planned, started and nearly completed – crossing the border from Mexico’s Pacific ports with cheap Chinese goods shipped into the lucrative U.S. market. The defeat of Prop 4 by Texas voters – those citizens closest to the development of the NAFTA Superhighway Trade Corridor and Toll Road System – may help to deflect new taxes, protect our property rights and in the process slow the globalists’ momentum for “Open Borders” and eventually turn the tide nationwide.
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 eight turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to