RMAs Need Accountability
I recently released my special report, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority: a Need for a Higher Standard, which showed a potential for double taxation and a pattern of loose management practices, favoritism, self-enrichment and lax expenditure controls at CTRMA. This review was done at the request of State Rep. Terry Keel.
It is vitally important to our state's future that we get this first regional mobility authority right. In order to build public confidence that is so necessary for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and other regional mobility authorities to be successful, I called for the immediate resignation of CTRMA's chairman and one board member whose personal holdings and business interests should have prevented their appointments in the first place. Every time these board members cast a vote, there is the potential for self-enrichment.
For example, the chairman owns an 18-acre tract about 2,000 feet east of US 183-A's right of way that has increased 612 percent, just since he was appointed to the board in 2002. The 11.6-mile US 183-A project is CTRMA's only planned roadway.
My report found regional mobility authorities are not directly accountable to the people of Texas. No voter approval is required for their creation; no voter approval is required for the selection of their board members or staff; no voter approval is required for the selection and funding of their toll projects; and no voter approval is required for the conversion of nontolled roads to toll road status. I have repeatedly said the redesignation as toll roads of roads already constructed, under construction or funded through traditional means, such as the gasoline tax, is double taxation.
In my report, I recommended amending state law to prevent double taxation by prohibiting the conversion to toll road status of any road that construction begins without tolls identified as a funding source; prohibiting the Texas Department of Transportation from making allocations from the Texas Mobility Fund contingent upon the inclusion of toll roads in regional road plans; requiring all RMA board members to disclose all their real estate holdings, not just those in a planned project's right of way; making RMA board members' terms four years, the same as the county commissioners who appoint them; giving county commissioners the authority to remove RMA board members; and tightening accounting and contracting practices between RMAs, their board members, contractors and subcontractors.
Finally, as the state's chief fiscal officer, I will review each of the regional mobility authorities that are in the process of being created across the state. Texas has embarked on a new and challenging way of funding its road construction needs, and the people deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn