January 6, 2009

Perry: TxDOT killed Trans Texas Corridor name, not initiative

The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry, talking from Iraq to reporters, suggested that the Texas Department of Transportation's decision to pull the plug on one of his biggest initiatives – the Trans Texas Corridor – was mostly a name change, and that public-private partnerships on toll roads would continue.

"The name 'Trans Texas Corridor' is over with. We’re going to continue to build roads in the state of Texas," Perry said.

He said toll roads will continue to play a major role in highway planning because there are limited ways to get infrastructure funding.

"Our options are fairly limited, due to Washington’s ineffectiveness from the standpoint of being able to deliver dollars, or for the Legislature to raise the gas tax," he said.

A week before the Legislature is to convene – and in the midst of a shift in House leadership – Mr. Perry accepted a Department of Defense invitation to join two other governors on a trip to visit troops in Iraq.

Perry, who has yet to lay out his legislative agenda, said it was the right thing for him to do.

"Texas is a big state, and we’ve got a lot of friends around the world," he said.

The governor said Texas has about 3,800 troops serving in Iraq, probably more military personnel than any other state.

"I think it’s important for me to see them, to tell them they’re doing a great job. I’m the commander in chief of the Texas state forces," he said. "I think it’s appropriate and the right thing to do."

Perry has raised his national profile in recent years, including speaking on behalf of GOP presidential candidates and serving as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

As he seeks a third term, he is engaged in a potential high-stakes 2010 primary contest against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Perry was asked about Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, becoming the presumptive Texas House speaker. Straus has gathered pledges of support from more than 100 of the 150 House members, and all other contenders having dropped out of the race. The governor had a sometimes rocky relationship with outgoing Speaker Tom Craddick, even though they shared a socially conservative agenda and the support of the base of the Republican Party.

"I’m a very strong supporter of Joe," Perry said. "I know that the House will get their business done and will elect a new speaker. Whoever that individual is, we’ll look forward to working with them and moving the state forward."

Perry left on the Iraq trip on Monday, but word of it was not released until today for security reasons.

He is joined by Govs. Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Christine Gregoire of Washington.

© 2009 The Dallas Morning news: www.dallasnews.com

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