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Governor, Local Leaders, React to Loss of Local Option

By Shelley Kofler & BJ Austin, KERA News

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-840923.mp3

Austin & Dallas, TX – Governor Rick Perry is responding to Senator John Carona's comments about the Governor, and the failure of the local option transportation tax. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports Carona hoped Perry would be more helpful in backing the important North Texas measure. BJ Austin has reaction from North Texas civic leaders.

On Sunday the Dallas Morning News quoted Governor Perry as calling the local option bill a "monstrosity." That upset Senator John Carona. A committee of House and Senate lawmakers had just killed the measure that could have paid for road and rail projects in North Texas. Carona said it would have helped to have had Perry's vocal support.

Corona: He never assured me he'd be out publicly supporting he just assured me he was not going to stand in the way. His comments within the past 24 hours are somewhat of a revelation to me and they would demonstrate he has probably hoped all along this issue would die and he would not have to confront it in the upcoming political season.

Two days later the Governor said Carona shouldn't have been surprised by his comments.

Perry: If disparaging comments are, "I don't like taxes," show me voting aye. And that's what this was always about.

Perry said his objections to local option grew as it the bill expanded.

The bill as conceived would have allowed urban voters in North Texas, the Austin area, and Bexar county the option of increasing their own gas taxes or fees. The money raised would have paid for local road or rail projects. But the House transportation chairman expanded the option to other regions.

Perry: When the Senator came to me early and said listen I want to run with this I said, "Senator, you can run with this," and he shared that with it being a North Texas solution. That's not what this was. It ended up being a statewide tax that had huge implication.

The loss of the local option tax leaves North Texas looking for other ways to build more than 200 miles of commuter rail that would connect the region. BJ Austin has more on what area leaders have to say.

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Governor Rick Perry today responded to Senator John Carona's comments about the Governor, and the failure of the local option transportation tax. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports Carona hoped Perry would be more helpful in backing the important North Texas measure. BJ Austin has reaction from North Texas civic leaders.

At Dallas City Hall, Council member Ron Natinksy says "local option" was a good plan to take care of transportation problems that the STATE refuses to address. Natinksy and council colleague Jerry Allen feel betrayed.

Natinksy: We worked up this option. They put their stamp of approval on it during the year that we worked on it. And then, come around to the end, they pulled the rug out from under us.

Allen: I feel like it was well thought out. It's a big setback, and it's going to require leadership to go back to the drawing board. This transportation issue for all of North Texas is so huge, so important to our region.

Michael Morris is the North Central Texas Council of Government's Director of Transportation. He says it may take a while to get the big transportation picture and regroup after this session of the Legislature.

Morris: Given that there was a total collapse in the Legislative process in the last week, it'll take us a good six months to figure out where we go from here.

Morris says the next step MAY be a special legislative session that MAY include transportation - and another stab at the local option idea. But Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield has doubts about increased support among lawmakers who are dissatisfied with Texas Department of Transportation performance, and wary of anything that raises taxes.

Mayfield: I'm not a fan of local option. To me, it takes the pressure off of the state for providing transportation dollars.

Morris meanwhile believes lawmakers learned a lot about transportation needs in the last two weeks of the session. He says that may yield results - sooner or later.

Email Shelley Kofler

Email BJ Austin