Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Criticism jeopardizes Trans-Texas Corridor

By Bob Campbell - Staff Writer -Midland Reporter-Telegram - June 12, 2007
The proposed Trans-Texas Corridor system of "super highways" has become so controversial it may be discarded, a spokesman for the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin said Monday.

Addressing 100 people at a Petroleum Club luncheon, Research Fellow Talmadge Heflin said scathing criticism led the 80th Legislature to put a two-year moratorium on projects like the corridor that entail contracts with private companies.

Answering a question from local foundation supporter J. Evetts Haley Jr., Heflin said, "If the waves over Texas about the corridor continue, it will probably meet its demise."

Lawmakers said they were dubious about the corridor's private property impingements and probable high profits for consortium leaders Zachry Construction of San Antonio and the Cintra Corp. of Madrid, Spain.

Heflin, a former 22-year Houston state representative who was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, praised legislators for ending the session May 28 with a $7 billion surplus.

He also commended them for thwarting North Texas representatives controlled by the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority who tried to increase the city sales tax ceiling to 10 percent. "We need to keep the sales taxes where they are," said Heflin.

Foundation board member Ernie Angelo opened the event by saying the group's experts not only write good policy but also maximize their influence by disseminating their analyses to the Legislature. "These folks have an impact," Angelo said.
Foundation President and Vice President Brooke Rollins and Mary Katherine Stout noted their organization is largely supported by private donations. Its other Midland board member is Tim Dunn, who said it is effective because "facts and truth have an impact."

Dunn said lawmakers should have dedicated the surplus to a property tax reduction above the school tax cuts enacted last year.

Wagon Wheel Ranch owner Odis Holiman of Midkiff said mineral rights owners do not adequately compensate surface rights owners for damages done during oil production. "They don't have to negotiate and they don't," he said.

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