Thursday, May 24, 2007

Toll-road pact is still in talks

By AMAN BATHEJA - Star-Telegram Staff Writer -Posted on Thu, May. 24, 2007
AUSTIN -- Key negotiators were still working Wednesday night to hammer out a compromise version of a toll-road moratorium bill that Gov. Rick Perry won't veto.

Earlier Wednesday, Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, said a compromise between the House and Senate versions of a transportation bill had been negotiated, but key House members quickly insisted that a deal had not been reached.

The compromise version would require both chambers' approval.

Perry vetoed a toll-road moratorium bill last week, citing concerns that it would cost the state federal funding of transportation projects. Different versions of a second moratorium passed both chambers last week. If Perry were to veto that one, it would likely be after the end of the legislative session and too late for lawmakers to override it.

Perry has threatened to call a special legislative session on transportation if he doesn't receive a bill to his liking.

Meanwhile, lawmakers remain determined to get a moratorium passed to block development of Perry's proposed Trans-Texas Corridor.

House and Senate negotiators were haggling Wednesday over an amendment that Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, added to the House version of the bill. The amendment added a special arrangement called "facilities agreements." Critics say such agreements constitute a huge loophole through which private toll roads could still be built even while under the two-year moratorium.

Early Wednesday, Kolkhorst indicated that she plans to work with Perry to learn his concerns about the amendment.

"I think that if he can give me assurance that TTC 35 won't be built [with facility agreements] before Sept. 1, 2009, I think we can work out a compromise," Kolkhorst said.
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