The Brief: January 25, 2010

Is Texas building a highway to nowhere? No. But Texas legislators like their pork barrel transportation spending just as much as their Alaskan counterparts, apparently.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Is Texas building a highway to nowhere?

No. But Texas legislators like their pork barrel transportation spending just as much as their Alaskan counterparts, apparently.

According to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram review of 515 projects statewide over the last 18 years, “huge chunks of federal and state money are being spent on projects that have little or nothing to do with directly improving traffic.”

Some of the offenses:

• $96,000 for a report on an archaeological dig in a town near El Paso.

• $211,200 for the restoration of a “vintage Interurban trolley,” which only serves as a display, in Fort Worth.

• $267,200 to convert a rail depot to a visitors’ center (which now holds an insurance company) in Wichita Falls.

And one more thing: Texas used to have a reputation for the best highways in the nation. Now it’s for the plush rest stops. The state-of-the-art facilities—“the absolute best in the entire country”—attract the peripatetic from all over.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has centered her campaign around tweaking Gov. Rick Perry for his transportation record, but the Austin-American Statesman’s Ben Wear says the issues her team picks are old news:

“Hutchison’s campaign is treating the corridor plan — and its potential taking of farmland — as if it still has a pulse, foreign toll road leases like they're proliferating, and toll conversions as if they have a chance of happening (even Perry has disowned the strategy, and they now require a public vote). She's right in that Perry did want to do all those things, and probably still would if the politics were right. But they're not. “

Maybe Hutchison will find campaign Shangri-La in a rest stop somewhere.

CULLED:

• Texas has 462,000 gallons worth of cleaning up to do after the worst coastal oil spill since 1994.

• State senate hopeful and former Kip Averitt challenger Darren Yancey may have a predilection for lawsuits, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports. The Burleson Youth Association (yes, that’s a Little League group, and yes, he represented himself in that one) is a recent target of his litigious side—but it doesn’t stop there.

• The Pan Handle is getting some pre-primary love from the candidates. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidates Bill White and Farouk Shami were in Lubbock Saturday. Linda Chavez Thompson recalled her childhood in Lubbock County cotton fields in an interview with the Avalanche-Journal. And U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will campaign in Amarillo with former House Majority leader and Tea Party ally Dick Armey.

“I would judge it by who pays more taxes, me or Rick Perry? Me or Bill White? Every year, I pay more than they ever made in their life. … And since I'm paying taxes, I'll be careful spending people's taxes.” –Farouk Shami, to the Houston Chronicle

MUST READ:

Exclusive: Perry voter turnout project signs up felonsThe Dallas Morning News

Oilman, GOP stalwart Mosbacher dies at 82The Houston Chronicle

Is Perry gearing up for an independent expenditure campaign? — BurkaBlog

South Texan may be the next drug king  — San Antonio Express-News

Republicans more confident of defeating Edwards in District 17 U.S. House race  — Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Roe vs. Wade foes back PerryThe Houston Chronicle

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