Plans To Open Toll Road Investments To State Pension Funds Get Push In Senate Finance

By: AP
By: AP

Chairman Steve Ogden said using pension funds to invest in
Texas roads a win-win but other Senators sound cautionary
notes; Senators also cautioned that funds' focus on high
rates of return need to be balanced with risk management.
A joint Senate panel tossed around today a novel way of
paying for more roads - getting pension funds to invest in
new projects. And to give the discussion an added twist,
Senators were also asked to consider creating a new
quasi-public entity that would funnel pension fund money
from Texas and elsewhere into new road projects.

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) told members
of his committee and the Senate State Affairs Committee
that he's been thinking such a proposal since last
session. He said that he was impressed by the private
sector's willingness to throw several billion dollars at
the state for the right to build new toll roads.

Such willingness points to the private sector's belief
that there is a lucrative rate of return inherent in such
projects. So why shouldn't the state's pensioners share in
that return, Ogden wondered. He added that bringing in
pension fund money in lieu of foreign capital would
sidestep some of the biggest political arguments about
allowing private money to finance new roads.

Ogden said he envisioned the day when Texans would see
billboards announcing that the tolls collected on such and
such a highway were going to the benefit of the state's
retired teachers.

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