#NCSEN: Thom Tillis and those TOLL ROADS





State House Speaker Thom Tillis — one of a gaggle of GOP candidates seeking the party’s nomination for US Senate — took to Facebook this week to tout his record and debate his critics.  One subject in that Facebook debate — that happens to have stirred up a lot of controversy in Tillis’ own backyard — was toll roads:

toll roads convo2

OK.  So, he brings up Cato, John Locke and Heritage as toll road proponents.  Let’s check that out.  Here’s a post by someone at Heritage Action urging the federal government get out of the road building business, and have the construction and maintenance of those roads financed by tolls.  Here’s a piece from a Cato scholar touting the idea of privatized toll roads.  Here’s ANOTHER Cato scholar raising serious concerns about privatized toll roads.  So, there really isn’t a conservative consensus on the subject.    It’s funny.  I don’t see any of those scholars or organizations endorsing the idea of public-private toll roads WHILE maintaining one of the highest gas tax rates in the country. 

Here’s some food for thoughtfrom a Texan who has been living with this whole public-private toll roads thing — for Toll Road Thom and his friends on Jones Street to chew on:

It’s hard to disagree with much of what a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial advocates, like making the highway fund solvent, returning gas tax money sent to Washington back to the states, and loosening the federal strings attached to road money. However, where they’re missing the boat is this notion that private money will be the silver bullet to fix road revenue shortfalls and provide what’s often called ‘gap funding.’

There’s a hefty price that comes with seeking private money to build public roads using public private partnerships (P3s), as well as loss of sovereignty and control over the surrounding free routes (through non-competes clauses that prohibit or penalize expansion of free roads). Not only are toll rates on these privatized roads punitively higher than public toll roads (75 cents a mile versus 12-15 cents per mile on a public toll road), heaps of taxpayer money subsidize these government-sanctioned monopolies (so having to pay a toll, too, is DOUBLE TAXATION).

Also, these sweetheart P3s deals are structured to GUARANTEE private profits at the public’s expense. On the North Tarrant Express project (I-820) in DFW, taxpayers brought three-quarters of the money to the table, the Spanish firm, Cintra, only one-quarter, yet Cintra gets the exclusive right to set and collect tolls (at a rate of 75 cents per mile in peak hours) for the next half century in return for their paltry investment.

The WSJ’s subhead says ‘Americans don’t want to live in LaHood’s car-free utopia,’ knocking Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s livability agenda, which is actually a more sanitized name for the United Nations’ Agenda 21 anti-car policies that seek to herd people into high density housing in the inner cities and force motorists out of their cars and into mass transit.

Yet, the very policies the WSJ advocates, P3 toll roads, have the same net effect. It makes driving unaffordable and forces the majority of the traveling public out of their cars or stuck in unbearable congestion on unimproved free routes — so those who cannot afford to pay 75 cents a mile to get to work will be treated as second class citizens without mobility, even though they continue to pay gas taxes for roads.

The average worker has no control over when he reports to work. Many cannot afford to live close to their jobs, others plain don’t want to. Yet the WSJ and many libertarian and so-called conservative think tanks advocate congestion pricing that gouges commuters during peak hours in an attempt by government, or its private surrogates, to ‘manage’ traffic flow and purposely discourage peak hour travel.

Managed lanes’ utilize congestion pricing which is a variable toll rate that changes depending on time of day and level of traffic on the toll lanes. The more cars, the higher the price, creating road scarcity through pricing. Economists love it since their textbook free market theories get put into practice by governments.

However, government-sanctioned monopolies cannot be considered a free market solution to congestion. When there’s only one way to get where you need to go and the state puts that road in the hands of a private corporation who controls the toll rates and dictates how much you’ll have to pay to get to work at your appointed time, that’s not free choice nor free market — it’s tyranny.

Changing the tide
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal had his own awakening to the threat to state sovereignty by handing control of public roads to private, even foreign, corporations and he pulled the plug on Georgia’s P3 program, calling them “ill-conceived sell-outs” of state sovereignty. Recently, a Cato Institute scholar, Timothy Lee, also reconsidered his support for P3s reasoning that it threatens our freedom to travel. So the tide is turning as the political and financial realities of these failed policies come to light.

So while we need to get a fiscally responsible federal highway bill passed and while we need to give the states back the money they send to Washington and stop diverting road funds to non-road purposes, advocating P3s as part of the solution to make-up structural road funding shortfalls is fiscally irresponsible and a taxpayer rip-off, putting the cost of transportation so far out of reach for the average person that these toll roads will go bankrupt from lack of use, necessitating more taxpayer bailouts and malfeasance.

Oh. ABC 11 did a great story a while back about a Raleigh-area toll road that is seriously under-used and struggling to make it out of the red financially.

More problematic for the man crowned by McClatchy as the front runner in the GOP primary is the fact that he has been on both sides of the toll road issue, and his current view puts him in line with that of Walter Dalton.

Also, the state GOP approved an anti-toll plank for its 2013 platform.  Tillis responded by heading back to Raleigh and ramming through legislation allowing for toll roads. 

6 thoughts on “#NCSEN: Thom Tillis and those TOLL ROADS

  1. The Mises Institute wrote an article about how public-private partnerships are the “Back Door to Socialism.”

    “The danger in public-private partnerships and their promotion by both government bureaucrats and private businesspersons was perhaps best expressed by Rothbard:

    What’s needed is a corporate spokesman [and government bureaucrat] who embraces the government-business partnership with enthusiasm and joy. … When such a champion emerges, Mr. and Ms. America, keep a sharp eye on your wallets—you are about to be fleeced.


  2. And Tillis won the NC GOP Hall of Fame Dinner Straw Poll with like 58.8% of the vote. The dinner was filled with Grass roots since they were giving awards to the Grass roots by CD. He wasn’t even there. Dr. Brannon had the Largest Presence in the room that was visible.

    1. Perhaps you have identified the biggest RINO who needs hunting and that is Thom ”Toll Road” Tillis. Although he was brought into politics as a flunky for a corrupt moderate gang (Black-Morgan), he now tries to run under false colors claiming to be a conservative. Apparently that fools some people, so conservatives need to beat hard on Tillis’ miserable record to wake voters up.

    2. If you were present, then you probably know how Tillis also stacked the deck on that straw poll. He scheduled a luncheon and meeting of the State House Republican caucus just prior to the Hall of Fame Dinner at the same location. Unlike ordinary mortals who had to shell out their own money for the tickets, the legislators could write a check from their campaign fund. Many also brought their wives or husbands.

      Wonder why you did not mention that?

  3. First, the government must recognize that all of us citizens are its customers. I’m not sure that recognition will ever really occur. Nevertheless, in fact, we are its customers and should be treated accordingly. I don’t see how P3s can work and be fair to all of the customers of our government.

    As a customer, I pay my gas tax. For that, I expect to be treated the same as anyone else who has paid his/her gas tax. Specifically, I’m purchasing freedom of mobility via automobile. That freedom should be distributed equitably among all customers. In other words, some customers shouldn’t get 20 minute commutes for 20 miles while other customers get 60 minute commutes for 20 miles. On average, we all paid the same gas tax for those 20 miles. Yes, an individual commuter who owns an electric car may be getting his/her mobility for free. That’s a different topic. On average, the commuters in city A pay the same gas tax as the commuters in city B for the same 20 mile stretch. So, they should expect the same level of service for the money.

    Lower to middle income levels are bearing a significant portion of the cost of the P3s, yet they are effectively prohibited from using the HOT lanes due to the extortion level toll rates during rush hour. If you are a rush hour commuter, you will likely pay in excess of $200 per month to commute via the HOT lanes. So, if you make $50k per year, that amounts to about 5% of your gross income. After paying for your mortgage, car payment, electricity, and so on, most lower and middle income citizens won’t have the money to afford the use of the HOT lanes. However, these same people have contributed to the construction of these new Lexus Lanes. They have contributed their equal share via the gas tax and registration fees. The public right-of-way is also equally theirs. Yet, for their contribution, they get to sit in more congested lanes. They are actually harmed by the P3s. This is income redistribution at its worst.

    Proponents of the P3 model argue that it introduces competition and free market principles. Within the constraints of these new government sanctioned monopolies, that may be loosely true. For example, a commuter can choose the 60 minute commute rather than pay the $5-8 charge for the 20 minute commute. However, the commuter is not provided an alternative route with the same level of mobility. If there were two toll roads parallel to each other operated by different companies for the exact same route, you might get closer a true free market. However, that isn’t practical. The route is a monopoly, and most of the P3 contracts prohibit competition on an apples-to-apples basis (i.e., routes with competitive mobility). P3s do not create free markets. They are government sanctioned monopolies that open the door for significant crony capitalism.

    Proponents of the P3s argue that gas tax revenues have flat-lined due to better gas milage, so tolls are a good alternative funding mechanism. Interestingly, I agree that tolls are a good funding alternative. I’m in favor of usage taxes or fees as long as they are fair. I would be in favor of reducing the gas tax and making 100% of the interstate highways toll roads (all lanes of every mile of every interstate highway. Then, everyone pays the same for the same 20 mile stretch, which would be more like $0.50 to $1 rather than $5 to $8 like the P3s. The congestion based pricing is a not fair because it excludes over 50% of the population from benefitting from the highways that they have helped fund.

    The gas tax was originally intended to be a usage tax. The more you used the roads, the more gas you consumed and the more gas taxes you paid. However, with the better gas milage cars, the usage tax per mile traveled has gone down. Thus, our funding issue was created. If the gas tax was meant to equate to a certain amount of funds per mile traveled, why not simply reduce the gas tax and offset the reduction with a milage tax. It could be collected each year when registered drivers are required to get their annual inspections. Alternatively, the annual registration fee or automobile tax could be increased. Or, you could use a combination of approaches.

    In conclusion, there are options for funding the roads that are fair to all of our governments customers. Our government needs to listen to its customers and treat us with respect and dignity. Just because we disagree with a horrible funding mechanism that will do more harm than good does not mean that we should be labeled fringe and callously disregarded. The P3 funding model serves 50% of the government’s customers at best. A more well-considered model will serve all of the government’s customers fairly.

  4. Vallee, Raphael, and all: You folks make excellent points and are correct. However all of it can be distilled down to two points.
    1. Thom Thollroad Thillis is a serial fabricator of the truth. That means he lies. Why does he lie? For either power or money or both. Same story for most any politician.
    2. Nobody wants the tholl roads, except the company that profits from them. But politicians are systematically either misappropriating funds or wastefully money that could be used on roads, and now want to cry to us there is no solution. Fact is, they are the problem.

    You have to approach politics and politicians with the idea that nothing is what is seems. Don’t kid yourself that what comes out of an elected official is even meant to be believed.

    These republicans tout free market, free competition, and constitutional conservatism, and then slide in laws in the middle of the night that self serve and self deal….take the Bail Gate scandal where a monopoly was legislated in place to benefit Apodaca and Justin Burr. In a story here a few days ago, it was noted the Court of Appeals said in a 3-0 Decision the move was unconstitutional and illegal.

    Shameless Charlatans.

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