April 21, 2019 - TRA Commentary -
It's just not right.
Language should not be inserted in the state budget that would stop a private company bringing high-speed trains to Texas.
It's a misuse of power by one State Senator who has weaponized the budget process.
The Texas state budget allocates taxpayer funds for specific departments like education, public safety and public assistance. Each line of the state budget distributes a set amount of funding to each department to run their operations for the next two years. The Birdwell Rider that would stop high-speed rail contains ZERO funding. The rider language cites the misguided and poorly managed public rail project in California. Senator Birdwell has drawn an inference where none exists. The Texas project is a private venture that stated they will not accept state or federal handouts from taxpayers. There is no comparison.
To restrict the Department of Transportation from interacting with a specific transport mode sends a bad message to business and industry that Texas is not a welcoming state. TxDOT must be allowed to talk to all that bring plans and ideas to the table.
Opponents of high-speed rail have resorted to this backhanded method in the past
The Birdwell Rider doesn't allow public discourse through the hearing process in the light of day
Texas Senator Charles Schwertner tried this in the last session and is was struck down
Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) is the front man this session
This is NOT the way Texans want their government to operate
The rider can now only be removed by the Budget Conference Committee
#RemoveTheRider - Contact these lawmakers and tell them to #RemoveTheRider
Here are the conferees on the budget committee and their links:
Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) Chairwoman
Joan Huffman (R-Houston)
Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)
Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville)
Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood)
(Kolkhorst and Nichols have voted against high-speed rail in the past)
House budget conferees were chosen previously:
Chairman John Zerwas (R-Katy)
Greg Bonnen (R-Galveston)
Sarah Davis (R-Houston)
Oscar Longoria (D-Mission)
Armando Walle (D-Houston)