March 28, 2012

Headlines
Did the Senate kill private finance in infrastructure?
LA: House approves Gov’s proposal rewarding donations for private-school tuition
MS: Bill would allow moving death row inmates to private prison
CT: Union workers protest proposal to privatize services in Bristol

Did the Senate kill private finance in infrastructure?
The federal transportation reauthorization passed by the U.S. Senate earlier this month is notable for its (relative) bi-partisanship and for putting in place several key reforms…One amendment, however, disrupted that good feeling and highlighted the difference in how states finance their programs. The amendment proposed by Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico lowers federal highway aid for states that privatize their roads. The reasoning is that states like Illinois and Indiana that received upfront payments for concessions shouldn’t continue to receive aid for that portion of the state’s highway lanes and vehicle miles travelled. Although not completely privatized, the state no longer spends federal dollars on those roads, so they shouldn’t be factored into formulas that allocate money from Washington…About the Bingaman amendment, former Pennsylvania Governor Rendell said that it “absolutely would stop private investment in infrastructure.” While that may be overstating it a bit, one institutional investor publication recently spoke with private investors who echoed the sentiment that private-public partnerships in the U.S. have not taken off as they have in the UK, Canada, and Australia because the U.S. is not comfortable with public assets in private hands. “It turns out that Americans are not wild about seeing infrastructure transferred to private hands, nor do they appreciate the price bump that has come with many of them.” A September report by the OECD found that the U.S. infrastructure market is immature and has not provided many deals to investors because of the “historical negative public perception of private investment in (certain) infrastructure sectors,” and “infrastructure investment is perceived as too risky.” The New Republic

LA: House approves Gov’s proposal rewarding donations for private-school tuition
The second of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s two proposals for taxpayer-financed private school tuition cleared the Louisiana House of Representatives on Monday, marking the legislative halfway point for the administration’s proposed overhaul of primary and secondary education. The Times-Picayune

MS: Bill would allow moving death row inmates to private prison
A bill to let the state move male death row inmates from Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman to a private prison is headed to the governor’s desk…House Corrections Committee Chairman George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, suggested during debate Monday that the measure could make it easier for officials to control death row inmates. Lawmakers said the Department of Corrections intends to shift some death row inmates to Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, a 1,000-bed private prison run by Corrections Corp. of America…The Corrections Department supports the bill, spokeswoman Tara Booth said, adding that executions would still take place at Parchman. The Clarion-Ledger

CT: Union workers protest proposal to privatize services in Bristol
More than 50 clerks, custodians, parks workers, snow plow drivers and other employees gathered at city hall and cheered as union leaders said the city shouldn’t punish its employees or sacrifice community services. “The very thought of privatization offends me as a taxpayer and a public service worker,” Local 233 President Mayra Sampson said at a news conference organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Dozens of Sampson’s coworkers promised to rally at an April 10 finance board hearing so they can speak against hiring private contractors to do their work. They criticized the newly elected Republican majority on the city council for raising the question earlier this month, saying it puts the blame for the city’s financial troubles on the backs of taxpaying, middle-class workers…Republicans outvoted Democratic Mayor Art Ward on March 14 when they ordered a study of whether local companies could feasibly take over some government responsibilities such as hauling trash, plowing snow, fixing roads, maintaining parks and cleaning city buildings. Ward had argued that outsourcing city jobs is the wrong way to balance next year’s budget, which is projected to be $8 million to $10 million in the red without major service cuts or tax increases. Hartford Courant

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