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Good News Dallas
by Scott Bennett    Fri, Oct 28, 2005, 02:14 PM

226177-198518-thumbnail.jpgCollege students are usually given to purple prose but an outfit called the Young Conservatives of Texas may have set an all time record – or they may be sounding a wake up call. Try this shade of purple in a position paper authored by the group’s Vice Chairman for Issues and Policy:

“On November 8th, responsible Texans will eye with a collective bowling ball nine proposed constitutional amendments, one of which will threaten the foundation of conservative government . . .”

Or how about this:

“November 8th will become a statewide holiday in which proud Texans mourn the death of economic decentralization at the hands of a governor who has misappropriated the state budget to the point where he feels blank checks of taxpayer revenue must be entrenched in the state constitution to appease his heavy supporters in the railroad industry.”

The amendment pointed like a dagger at the Texas treasury seems somewhat less ominous in print. It allows the Texas Transportation Commission to issue and sell bonds to fund the relocation and improvement of privately and publicly owned passenger and freight rail facilities.

In a sparse email sent to supporters today Gov. Perry urged support for the amendment because it will:

+  Reduce 18-wheeler truck traffic on Texas highways
+  Improve air quality
+  Increase freight and commuter rail service
+  Spur economic development

His email then refers supporters to a link to an online brochure that leads to a PDF file that is a bit less sparse. The flier notes endorsements by most of the state’s major chambers and newspapers – along with something called “Texas Rail Advocates.” There is also a video.

What the Governor does not address is those devilish details about how much money can be borrowed and how it is to be paid back and who ultimately benefits from these funds and how.

It is hard to believe that Proposition One will bring on the fiscal apocalypse prophesied by the Young Conservatives but questions about the state’s growing bonded indebtedness and its capacity to absorb this debt are valid. Nelson Rockefeller’s New York had a balanced budget requirement in its constitution too. Rockefeller simply ignore it by using bond proceeds to fund the state operating budget. Could Texas be headed there too?

There is also a political question here: Is Rick Perry a spendthrift in hock to railroad interests and contractors or a visionary attempting to drag Texas into the 21st Century. It would be interesting to know what Carol Strayhorn, Chris Bell and Kinky Freidman have to say.

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