ALEC: “Let the Free Market Operate in Texas Infrastructure”

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A new report from a leading Conservative nonprofit argues against the discriminatory legislation being discussed in the Texas Legislature that singles out and targets the Texas Bullet Train by imposing arbitrary and unnecessary limits on the project and the emerging high-tech industry.

The whole notion of government opining, much less acting, in such a situation is the antithesis of a free market,” The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) report says. “A true free market is about allowing those who are willing to compete in the marketplace without government interference.”

ALEC is a nonprofit Conservative organization made up of state legislators and members of the private sector who draft and share model state legislation throughout the US. Its report examines the case of the Texas Bullet Train and uses it as the primary example for Conservative overreach in the private sector.

 “…one proposal would expressly discriminate against Texas Central by disallowing the use of eminent domain for any train that goes faster than a certain speed,”  it reads. “In a nutshell these efforts are merely designed to use government to hinder the free market.”

 It goes on:

“To realize a boon to taxpayers, Texas merely has to allow the free market to operate by not expanding government in the form of discriminatory legislation. Currently, Texas has the opportunity to innovate and lead the country in allowing the free market to operate where train travel is concerned.”

 The report effectively makes the case for why Conservatives should support this (and other) private investment in public infrastructure, noting that the American Society of Civil Engineers’ “Infrastructure Report Card” rates Texas infrastructure as a “C” despite having more miles of state roads, farm-to-market, ranch-to-market, U.S. and interstate highways than any other state. The report argues that Texas Conservatives should open their arms to all types of investments in state infrastructure, especially private ventures.

“Texas has the opportunity to lead in yet another area by allowing the free market to operate freely. The very clear beneficiaries are the people of Texas who will see increased competition in transportation as well as some relief from exposure to more government expenditure on infrastructure. The state can help define the age of innovation if it believes in freedom itself.”

The Texas Bullet Train will benefit Texans in a myriad of other ways beyond just providing a better, safer travel option between North Texas, the Brazos Valley and Houston, it says. 

“The entrepreneurial venture called Texas Central has begun the real work to improve transportation options for Texans. Whether engineering overpasses for roads, working with landowners or designing inviting and comfortable train cars, Texas Central has invested millions of dollars of private funds already.”

ALEC’s report also cited a recent report by the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, Eminent Domain in Texas: A review of a decade long effort to protect landowners’ rights, which explored the issues related to eminent domain and developing large market-led infrastructure projects like the Texas Bullet Train. You can read the report, here.

 The ALEC report only touched on the eminent domain issue, saying:

 “Of course, a great many public use transportation infrastructure projects ultimately need to use eminent domain to be able to reach completion. Specifically, railroads, including those in Texas, have long had to resort to eminent domain to provide a benefit to the public as have highways and other public infrastructure.”

 And, in a commentary published in The Dallas Morning News on April 17, “Why it’s perfectly appropriate to allow a private railroad to use eminent domain,” Texas State Senator Don Huffines expressed his thoughts on the issue. 

The market-led approach to the Texas Bullet Train project is what really differentiates it from every other high-speed train system in existence. It’s why it has attracted so much capital from seasoned investors in the Texas economy, and it’s a big sign that the demand is already there. The ALEC report argues that it should, therefore, succeed or fail based its merits not because of unnecessary legislative interference.

“In a free market, conservatives should not care about whether the business will be a success. In other words, true conservatives should embrace the free market allowing the market to define success, and separate winners from losers … Those who assert that if the project goes bust the government will step in and take it over have a right to be concerned but do not have a concern with the project. Instead, they should be concerned about a government that would step in and compete in the private sector.”

 Of course, the report itself is about more than just this one railroad project. It’s about the kind of government we Texans want to have – a government that stands back and lets the free market operate or a government that steps in order to influence the process. The authors of the report plant their flags clearly on the side of liberty:

“Texas has a long and strong history of believing in freedom, protecting freedom and encouraging freedom. This is not the time, nor the issue on which it should suddenly pursue restrictive, discriminatory and liberty limiting ways.”


RELATED: Read the recent report from the Conservative Think Tank, The Institute for Policy Innovation, titled, “No Basis for Conservative Opposition to the Texas Central Rail Project”.