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Ports-to-Plains Alliance

Monday
May012017

That Grantham speech on doomed transportation bill may haunt the Capitol

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham,Ports-to-Plains Alliance would like to express its appreciation to Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham for his sponsorship of HB 17-1242. His impassioned words prior to the final vote in the Senate Finance Committee were spot on.

The Colorado Statesman

May 1, 2017

“We do worry about the Balkanization of our state roads system. If Colorado Springs and then northern Colorado and other RTAs start passing their own [funding and development plans], there will be donut holes throughout the state that will be left out of improvements and will never get the improvements that are needed. Maybe that’s the preferred solution for some. It’s not for me… But that is the direction we are heading, and I think it’s a dangerous one…” 

“I don’t know what would happen if it went to the people… But I know, without a doubt, that if it doesn’t get on the ballot, then it will definitely never pass. We only get so many bites at the apple — I’ve heard that a lot today — but if the number of bites we get is exactly zero, then zero is the result we will get.”

The session’s unloved grand bipartisan transportation measure, House Bill 1242, is dead, but the closing remarks — you might say the sickbed epitaph — delivered for the bill by Republican sponsor and Senate President Kevin Grantham are worth revisiting, especially given that, in the last week, and with a little more than a week left in the legislative session, three new transportation-related bills have been introduced.

Grantham spoke right before the bill was dispatched Tuesday by the Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee, addressing the bill and its critics with words that might come to resonate beyond the committee hearing, even if in a ghostlike way, floating into remarks made years from now by lawmakers begging please for someone somehow to expand I-25 south of Castle Rock or to find a way to get their aged mother or father to the doctor in the middle of the day.

Grantham said running this year’s bill was a brave and bold move. He said the bill was unloved on the left and the right because drumming up billions for much-needed transportation upgrades in a politically and ideologically divided swing state was always going to be — and is long likely going to be — a slog.

He said people in the Capitol have to begin seeing transportation in new ways, and doing that is hard to do. He suggested that the long era of roads and more roads and single-occupancy privately owned vehicles no longer serves the population of the state the way it once did — and particularly the state’s younger and older populations — and that transit, meaning mass-transit, is popular with residents even if it’s unpopular with lawmakers.

Read on… 

Tuesday
Apr252017

With NAFTA, Mexico and the U.S. build things together 

The Dallas Morning News

April 25, 2017

Since NAFTA was signed 24 years ago in my hometown of San Antonio, U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada has more than tripled, and there is no question that Texas has benefited the most. With easy access to two of the busiest U.S. ports of entry via land and sea — Laredo and Houston — it is no surprise that Texas exported more than any other state in 2014, almost $300 billion-worth to countries worldwide. Across the U.S., all but ten states depend on Canada or Mexico as their largest export markets.

While "free trade" has been blamed for job losses in many parts of the nation, as of 2014 nearly five million jobs across the U.S. depend on trade with Mexico. These jobs are not just in Texas. In 2015, Mexico was the first or second export destination for 30 out of 50 states.

Read on...

Tuesday
Apr252017

A reelection challenge (almost) as big as Texas

The Washington Post

April 25, 2017

Texas Rep. Will HurdTORNILLO, Tex. — Midterm elections are known to be brutal on the party in power, and if there is an anti-Republican wave in 2018, look for it to touch shore right here.

The vast, volatile 23rd Congressional District of Texas is bigger in area than 29 states. It stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and includes about one-third of the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Its overwhelmingly Latino electorate last year went for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. But it also reelected a Republican to the U.S. House — one of fewer than two dozen in the country to split that way.

Rep. Will Hurd narrowly won a second term in what turned out to be the most expensive House race in Texas history. Democrats have put Hurd’s seat in their top five targets in 2018. He will also be running to beat the fickle tendencies of a district that has ousted four different incumbents since 2006.

Read on...

Thursday
Apr202017

Colorado lawmakers’ grand bargain on transportation appears doomed

The Denver Post

April 20, 2017

The Colorado legislative session’s top priority, a major transportation bill that seeks a tax hike to improve and expand highways, is unlikely to win approval this term.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Cañon City Republican and one of the prime sponsors, announced Thursday morning that he does not have the votes to move it through the GOP-led chamber.

“At this point, we can’t count to three,” he said, describing the number of votes he needs to advance it through the Senate Finance Committee next week.

The bill sponsors continue to work to secure support, but Grantham did not express optimism that the vote total would shift. House Bill 1242 won approval in the Democratic-led House earlier this year but faced tougher obstacles in the Senate because it would ask voters for a 0.5 percent sales tax hike to generate money for a $3.5 billion bond package for roads.

Read on...

Thursday
Apr132017

Colorado Senate president trims proposed transportation tax hike as it advances

Denver Business Journal

April 13, 2017

Seeking the support of enough Republicans in the Colorado state Senate to push through a transportation tax-hike proposal, Senate President Kevin Granthammade several major changes to the bill during a committee hearing Tuesday, including the reduction of the proposed tax increase from 0.62 cents to 0.5.

Grantham, R-Cañon City, also committed $100 million per year from the state’s general fund to a new 20-year stream of revenue that would be used to cover roughly $3.5 billion a year in highway expansion projects, as well as generating additional funding for local roads and creating a new multi-billion-dollar multi-modal transportation grant fund.

Read on...

Tuesday
Apr112017

Cities want to believe in the hyperloop because US infrastructure is so bad

The Verge

April 11, 2017

Shailen Bhatt, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Transportation, has high hopes for the hyperloop. He would like to see one cutting right through the middle of the Rocky Mountain State, connecting half a dozen cities, reducing travel time from hours to mere minutes, and bolstering Colorado’s image as a high-tech destination.

“Freight rail moves freight, high-speed rail moves passengers,” Bhatt said, “Hyperloop has the potential to do both.”

Never mind the fact that no human or freight has ever traveled by hyperloop for the simple reason that there are no hyperloops anywhere in the world. Despite the millions of dollars committed by hopeful investors, the technology has yet to be tested in any meaningful way. LA-based startup Hyperloop One says it just finished its half-kilometer-long test track in the desert north of Las Vegas, and in a few months it will conduct its first full-system test. But as of now, the hyperloop only exists in the spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations of Hyperloop One’s marketing team.

Read on...

Tuesday
Apr112017

Why Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan could wind up in a ditch

Politico

April 11, 2017

President Donald Trump is counting on his $1 trillion infrastructure proposal to produce the kind of bipartisan legislative victory that has eluded him on health care and pretty much everything else.

Instead, he’s running into familiar roadblocks: suspicious Democrats, a divided GOP and questions about the math.

Trump’s plan, expected to be released as early as May, has already faced months of skepticism from some conservative deficit hawks — even though it’s likely to call for far less direct federal spending than its eye-popping price tag implies. Meanwhile, Democrats are crying foul at suggestions that the blueprint will include hefty tax breaks for private investors and a shredding of permit requirements.

Read on...

Tuesday
Apr112017

NAFTA has staying power, especially if Texas supporters keep speaking out 

The Dallas Morning News

April 11, 2017

Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez, Mexico Ambassador to U.S.In one of his first acts in Washington, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade deal involving a dozen countries.

Unwinding the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada would be much tougher, even if Trump wants to go there.

That’s no accident. Before NAFTA took effect 23 years ago, Mexico was angling for more than easy access to U.S. consumers, which is usually the primary goal for a developing country.

Mexico wanted an accord that would also benefit the U.S. and Canada, and strengthen economic ties among all three countries. Such multi-sided trade deals are more stable and durable, and that’s helpful when there’s a change in popular opinion -- or elected leaders.

NAFTA has created impressive growth in trade and jobs, especially for Texas. But it’s also spawned large networks of suppliers and manufacturers whose goods often criss-cross the border before final assembly.

Read on...