News Release from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 29, 2008
Contact: Celeste Villarreal
512/463-0121

Zaffirini Opposes Risking State Pension Funds to Finance Toll Roads

(AUSTIN) -- State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) today (Wednesday) expressed anew her opposition to risking state pension funds to finance toll roads.

"It's bad enough that some Texans' land is being taken to build roads that those same Texans later would be charged to utilize. It would be even worse for the state to risk the retirement funds of retired state employees and teachers to pay for them," she said.

The Texas Transportation Commission reportedly is looking into the possibility of using the state's pension funds to finance road projects.

"The focus of those who invest our pension funds should be solely on maximizing our return on the investments, not in funding risky and unproven toll road schemes which most Texans do not support," Senator Zaffirini said.

She added that recent weakness in the U.S. economy and tremendous volatility in investment markets affected the state's pension funds negatively and that requiring those funds to finance toll road projects would make a challenging situation more difficult for fund managers.

"Retired teachers and state employees need to know that the state's pension funds are solvent. Placing those funds in jeopardy by funding toll road projects sends a signal to our teachers and state employees that their retirement funds are at risk, at the whim of political pressures," Senator Zaffirini said.

During the most recent legislative session, Senator Zaffirini voted in favor of legislation that would have placed a two-year moratorium on Trans-Texas Corridor projects. Following a veto by Governor Rick Perry, the legislature then passed compromise legislation that sharply curtailed plans to build these toll roads.

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SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, questions Texas Department of Transportation officials about their recent shortfall. Zaffirini has served as vice chair of Senate Finance since 2003 and as a member since 1991.


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