The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is the poster child of agencies in dire need of reform. We’ve recently reported on the many, well-documented illustrations of institutional incompetence, poor leadership decisions, and a lack of objective processes for project allocation. Despite these correctable ills, some lawmakers want to give TxDOT even more of your tax dollars before doing anything to address the agency’s profligate ways.
In statements not yet made in public, high-level members of the State Senate have adopted the “fund now, fix later” approach to the faltering agency. Texas taxpayers have seen this before.
In Austin, a popular solution among the institutionally incompetent is to simply “throw money” at any given problem. For those who believe this is an exaggeration, consider any state “crisis” lawmakers have sought to address without a substantial contingent of new funding. One would be led to believe that every problem in government could simply be solved with more money.
To date, these pages have documented almost half of a billion dollars of money entrusted to TxDOT that has been squandered on worthless pet projects. Moreover, TxDOT still lacks publically viewable, information driven, and objectively apolitical processes for allocating limited taxpayer resources to transportation projects.
Despite these unresolved problems, some lawmakers are quietly lobbying colleagues to support appropriating an additional $6.5 billion to TxDOT in the upcoming legislative session.
In recent years, lawmakers have paid significant lip service to the idea of reform predicated on finding a new funding stream. Now that the rubber is set to meet the road on funding, it is time they fulfilled promises to change the agency. Legislators must understand that actually fixing the agency and giving it more money are not the same.
Voters will get to decide whether TxDOT has earned enough trust to be given approximately $1.4 billion more annually through Proposition 1 this November. Legislators and transportation bureaucrats have remained silent on the many failures of the agency for fear of a negative electoral outcome.
With significant projected population growth, Texas needs an effective transportation agency. Lawmakers must use the carrot and the stick to change TxDOT first, before even entertaining the thought of more taxpayer dollars. In short, the legislature must fix first, then fund, lest we continue down the current path of wasteful spending driven by the status quo.