While in town, the Republican governor met with reporters and bloggers on Wednesday. I had the opportunity to ask him about his role in the NAFTA Super Highway and North America Union—two concepts that have generated considerable interest since HumanEvents.com contributor Jerome Corsi wrote about them earlier this year.
Earlier in the week, Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.) wrote in a column that Perry was a key player behind the NAFTA Super Highway. Paul said the idea has escaped media scrutiny and must be investigated by Congress.
The following is my exchange with Perry about the NAFTA Super Highway and North America Union.
This week a congressman from you state, Ron Paul, wrote a piece about the so-called NAFTA Super Highway. He said you’re a supporter of it—you’ve asked for some money to study the idea. What can you say about it?
Here’s what I know, and frankly, I don’t know all the different aspects of the NAFTA Super Highway. Here are the facts: Texas’ population is going to double by 2040. We’re going to be approaching 44 to 45 million people. That’s not that long. Fifty percent of the population in Texas is in the I-35 corridor. We’re going to have to build some roads. Now, what are the options?
We must build some infrastructure in the state of Texas. The options are: don’t do anything and the state becomes absolutely so congested, the air quality gets impacted so negatively in those metropolitan areas you lose economic opportunity. The Dells of the world will go build their plant somewhere else. We know that is not an acceptable alternative. Or we could raise $1 of gas tax. That’s about what the experts estimate that it would take, and I’m not sure that is even close to politically feasible. Hell, they won’t raise a 15-cent gas tax or a dime or a nickel. So that was kind of out the window.
What’s the other option? Wait for Washington to send the money down. Well, we haven’t had much luck in that. Our congressional delegation has not been very successful in getting Texas much over 9 cents out of every dime that’s sent to Washington in gas tax. We’re a major donor state.
The other option was that the private sector would come in and build that infrastructure, and then pay for it with a user fee, i.e. tolls. I-35 will still be there for those by-god-I’m-never-going-to-pay-a-toll-to-drive-on-I-35 people. People get confused, they call them freeways. There are no free highways. There’s tax roads and there’s toll roads.
We have decided in this state, through substantial legislative debate—we put it toward the people of the state of Texas in the creation of a mobility fund. We’ve had a number of public debates over how you build transportation infrastructure in this state. And creating an alternative route with the smallest footprint—when you consider over the next 50 years you’re going to have to build roads, you’re going to have to build more electrical lines, you’re going to have to build more water pipelines, etc.—we came up with a concept where we put it all into one particular pathway. And all of the right-of-way, the rail, the asphalt, all goes in that one place.
We’re building some alternative infrastructure to handle the growth that’s happening in the state of Texas. I don’t know how that fits into the grand scheme of things. If you hear me asking for more infrastructure dollars from the state of Texas, the main reason for that is we’ve been shortchanged for decades.
Texas is a very important part of the economy of this country. When the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed, Texas did not get one thin dime of assistance from the federal government. And 75% of all of that NAFTA truck traffic is on Texas highways. Our highways are the ones that are taking the beating. We’re the ones who are picking up the cost of that. And you would think that Washington might see the upside of sending Texas some federal dollars to keep those highways up.
So you don’t see this as a plot or some kind of conspiracy that’s going to tie the United States, Canada and Mexico together as the North America Union?
Look, I’m trying to secure the southern border, so the idea that somehow or another that we’re going to create this big, tri-lateral connection between Canadians, the United States and—we’re pretty independent in Texas. When we were created in 1845, we maintained that we could break away any time we got ready. As a matter of fact, we could break ourselves into five states if we wanted to. And there’s folks out in West Texas who still think that’s a pretty good idea.
The fact is, I don’t see it as some great conspiracy. I see it as a challenge from the standpoint of, How do we move our goods around? How do we keep economic vitality in the state of Texas? And you must have a transportation infrastructure system that will move people and products safely and efficiently—and deal with the issue of hazardous materials’ getting crammed through our city centers now because that’s where the freeways go. That’s where the main rail lines go. Last month, another major train accident in downtown San Antonio. It’s just a matter of time before Texans’ lives are lost if we don’t get our transportation infrastructure addressed.