Category: NewsLink to article here.
The $1 billion in reserves that the Harris County Toll Authority holds may end up being used for more than just road expansion. With the pressures of unreimbursed healthcare costs to counties rising, road users may end up being the 'gap-funding' of choice to fill holes in the county's budget. Read more about the Harris County Commissioners have already used toll road revenues as their own personal slush fund here.
Harris County is in good shape, but shoulders staggering health care burdens.
February 22, 2013
When Harris County Judge Ed Emmett delivers his 2013 State of the County speech to a friendly Greater Houston Partnership audience on Monday, he will be able to say what few others in his position around the nation can. We're in good shape.
But shhhhhh! We're going to need to spend more at the county not merely to keep up, but to anticipate future growth.
The county's position is strong and getting stronger, thanks in large part to a booming economy; but also because of forward-looking decisions made by county leaders across the decades. That's a tradition Emmett aims to continue, and one we strongly support.
Entities such as the Harris County Toll Road Authority help position the county to continue to meet the pressures of a rapidly expanding population at a time when the Texas Department of Transportation is literally going broke. The Toll Road Authority, with its $1 billion in reserves, is a large reason Harris County maintains a AAA bond rating, which shaves millions off of interest expenses annually. This isn't to say that Harris County is problem-free. Far from it.
Near the top of the to-do list is lessening burden of indigent health care, which costs county taxpayers close to $600 million in unreimbursed expenses annually.
Emmett, a mainstream conservative Republican, makes no bones about the solution. He says he is "full bore" for expansion of Medicaid, the federal program that addresses the health care needs of the poor and indigent. That means pressing the GOP majority in Austin to do what does not come naturally: Recognize the utter necessity of accepting federal dollars to pay for Medicaid expansion in Texas.
Emmett's dollars-and-cents argument, borrowed from the Legislative Budget Board, is compelling: If Texas contributes $50.4 million in the next two years, he says, the state will receive $4 billion in funding from Washington in the coming biennium - and much of that is money Texans sent to the nation's capital in the first place.
Getting relief for Harris County Jail as a dumping ground for our mentally ill is another priority. Making fuller use of the Harris County Psychiatric Center is one likely solution.
Finding money to reduce the number of at-grade freight rail crossings and moving toward clean-air attainment through increased use of natural gas as a transportation fuel are on the wish list.
It's a sign of the times that the folks Emmett finds hardest to convince on this are modern-day tea party conservatives.
"A classic conservative spends money wisely in order to ensure a prosperous future," the county judge told the Chronicle editorial board on Thursday. "But in today's Republican Party there's a whole new breed of conservative that wants to cut government spending arbitrarily.
"At the county, we have to operate like a business, and that means spending for the future when times are good."
We concur. Times are good, and so is Ed Emmett's businesslike approach.
- Putting lipstick on the P3 pig - 'availability payments'
- Loop 1604 could be handed to private toll operator for 50 years
- TX lawmakers vote to sell-off 20 roads to private entities
- Highway Trust Fund needs to be cut 92%?
- VA Residents protest toll lanes on I-395
- Reasons to be wary of public private partnerships
- Legislators pass law to use property tax to build TOLL roads
- Trans Texas Corridor update: Hwy 59 gets I-69 designation
Like Us on Facebook!
Latest Press Releases
- Texas for Sale: Texas roads may be handed to private, foreign toll operators
- Texans ask for leadership to enact NEW vision for road policy
- Grassroots applaud Perry's call to end diversions, reject Rainy Day raid
- Texans call for boycott of Cintra's SH 130 tollway
- Judge rules foreign company can take Texas land using eminent domain
- Victory for open government, but not complete transparency
- Farmer challenges use of eminent domain for Keystone pipeline
- Anti-toll groups celebrate Campbell, Cruz victories