Democratic Contenders for Texas Governor Split on College Tuition, Toll Roads, Legalized Marijuana

The two leading Democratic candidates for governor took different approaches Wednesday to pocketbook issues, such as how to pay for the rising cost of college and easing highway congestion in an appearance before the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News.On college tuition, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez proposed to reverse the Legislature’s 2003 decision to let state schools set their own rates and fees. She said lawmakers, aided by experts, should again set tuition. But she offered few details.“I think we would have to just set a wage, or set a standard to which would be fair all across the state,” Valdez said. “There’s tuition in some schools that are a lot higher than others. We should look at the experts in education and have them help us stair step, or set a standard in tuition. You can’t do this on your own.”Houston investor Andrew White stopped short of supporting re-regulation of tuition. But he said that if elected, “at the very minimum” he would press lawmakers to pass a law requiring state universities and colleges to guarantee tuition for an entering student stayed the same for four years.“They better graduate in four years because after that, we’re not going to freeze it,” he said.White said the source of the problem is reduced state funding of higher education. However, he offered no details on how he’d find more money for public colleges and universities.Valdez, White and four other Democrats fielded questions about education, taxes, social issues and how as a member of the minority party they'd govern in GOP-leaning Texas. Three other candidates did not attend the editorial board meeting. The primary is March 6.Toll roadsOn traffic congestion, Valdez said she opposes toll roads such as managed lanes. White called them a necessary evil -- though he said tolls such as those on the North Dallas Tollway should come off at a date certain.Neither supported Dallas businessman Jeffrey Payne’s call for a 10-cent increase in the state gasoline tax, now 20 cents a gallon.The average Texan would pay an extra $230 a year, but the increase is necessary, Payne said.“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” he said. “I’ve looked in my backyard. We have to get the money somewhere.”Valdez spoke vaguely of hopes that President Donald Trump’s infrastructure proposal, which he touted in his state of the union speech Monday, would bring Texas some additional federal funds. She also touted mass transit.  Continue reading...

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