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Go for the Gold!

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Team USA distinguished itself at the Summer Olympics by winning the most Gold medals and the most medals of any country in history. This should encourage AGC to Go for the Gold in its advocacy campaign, by informing candidates about the important issues facing our industry. The future of Texas’—and America’s—highways is at a crossroads, as is our entire industry. We must find ways to increase transportation funding to keep America’s “gold medal” status of the world’s finest highway system.

The Tea Party dominated the Texas GOP run-off elections on July 31 as newcomer Ted Cruz defeated Lt. Governor David Dewhurst 57% to 43% for the Republican Senate nomination. This was a real shocker since the veteran Lt. Governor had lead the May primary by a substantial margin. Cruz will now face former State Representative Paul Sadler in the general election. The good news for our industry is that our friend David Dewhurst will return to lead the Texas Senate in January.

Other changes occurred during the runoff. Donna Campbell took out long-time Senator Jeff Wentworth from San Antonio— a surprising feat, given that Campbell had run unsuccessfully against Congressman Lloyd Doggett from Austin and had to move into the district to run. Several state House incumbents (including Chairman Chuck Hopson) also lost as the well-organized Tea Party got out its vote. Other states did not embrace Tea Party candidates like Texas did. Longtime Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida turned back a challenge from the tea party freshman Rep. Sandy Adams in the GOP primary. The ten term congressman, who wields considerable Capitol Hill clout as the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is expected to win in November. This was an important victory for transportation advocates as well since Mica was heavily criticized for his support of the federal highway bill.

In Wisconsin, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who served as Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush, also beat out three challengers for a congressional seat. The Tea Party Express and Club for Growth all backed former Rep. Mark Neumann.

What role will the Tea Party play on the national stage? Governor Mitt Romney’s new running mate is Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Ryan stormed onto the national scene in 2010 when as House Budget Committee chairman he introduced the “Roadmap for America’s Future.” This roadmap to fiscal responsibility passed the US House, but went nowhere in the Senate. However, it established Ryan’s reputation as a leading fiscal conservative, budget expert, and reformer.

Serving as the official kick-off to the fall Presidential election in what will likely be a very close race, the Republican and Democratic Conventions will have taken place by the time this article appears. The candidates go into their convention deadlocked, with the Gallup daily tracking poll tied or nearly so all summer. It will be interesting to see if one of the candidates gets a durable bounce from their convention.

The election represents a golden opportunity for all AGC members to inform their state and federal representatives about our state’s transportation needs. To help you be an advocate for our industry, AGC has developed a tool entitled “The Cost of Doing Nothing.” It explains the drastic shortfalls facing TxDOT and our industry. Please use this tool to help educate candidates running for election and re-election.

This informational effort must happen at both the state and federal level. Regardless who wins in November, our Congressional delegation and members of the State House of Representatives and State Senate need to know about the drastic transportation cuts we face in the next few years.

The Texas Department of Transportation will only be able to address maintenance with no money for new construction by 2014 if there are no additional monies allocated to it. This will not only affect the quality of our Texas highways, but your business and your employees and their jobs. Our candidates need to understand these cuts will hurt.

This is not just a Texas problem. We cannot rest on our laurels just because Congress finally passed the highway reauthorization bill. The legislation is only for two years and we need to educate our delegation on the importance of keeping Federal funding up. Texas will have a new senator next year. Whether it is the heavily favored Republican (Ted Cruz), or his Democratic challenger (Paul Sadler), they must come to understand the importance of stable, adequate transportation funding.

Team USA did its part to bring home the Gold in London. It’s now up to us to educate our legislators about the importance to our Texas economy of a Gold Medal, world-class transportation system.

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