June 25, 2013


To Toll or Not: Could the Feds Lift a Ban on Interstate Tolling? If Patrick Jones has his way, you could wind up paying a toll every time you drive on the interstate. If that sounds shocking, it should. Historically, tolling on the interstate has been prohibited, except for a few roadways — mainly on the East Coast — that were grandfathered in when the interstate system was created. But Jones, who leads the trade association representing toll owners and operators and the businesses that serve them, says it’s high time for a change. Governing

VA: Transurban Ditches Old Toll Road, New One Struggles. Australian toll road company dumps an old toll road in Virginia as a newly opened route struggles. Virginia’s transportation policy has been dominated by tolling. Both Governor Bob McDonnell (R) and his predecessor Tim Kaine (D) saw the use of public-private partnerships as a means of raising revenue for the state while claiming not to have raised taxes. The tolling push continues with the construction of tolling infrastructure on existing lanes of Interstate 95, even though similar projects in the state are struggling to stay afloat. TheNewspaper.com

MI: Detroit Institute Of Arts, Zoo Safe For Now, But Could They Be Sold. “Bidding the stuff off is completely ridiculous,” he said. “There are better ways of dealing with Detroit’s debt” than selling off an art collection piece by irreplaceable piece. But emergency manager Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy expert hired by the state in March to steer Detroit away from insolvency, has made it clear that everything of value owned by the city could be up for grabs. A decision on whether to file for bankruptcy could come within weeks. In a letter to DIA officials, Orr gave notice that there are no sacred cows, even if bankruptcy means cutting the city’s soul to save it. Huffington Post

TN: Governor says state will privatize more work. Gov. Bill Haslam says he intends to continue privatizing some state government operations. A contract to have a Chicago-based company manage state office space created controversy. It takes effect July 1 and 126 General Services Department workers will be laid off….. A Davidson County judge is set to rule on a lawsuit by the Tennessee State Employees Association and individual workers who say the state violated its own requirement to help affected workers find other positions by removing a website that would let them look for state jobs.  WRCB-TV

IL: Guvs to pitch Illiana Expressway to investor types…It would run 46.8 miles from Interstate 65 just outside of Lowell in Indiana to Interstate 55 near Wilmington in Illinois…Both governors hope investors will pay the estimated $1.3 billion construction cost in exchange for a piece of, or all of, the tolls that will be collected once it opens to traffic. nwitimes.com

LA: Privatization of state insurance services on track, but savings could drop, auditor says. The privatization of Louisiana’s lines of insurance and loss prevention services, initiated in 2010, is on track to save the state millions of dollars over the next few years, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor says. But due to an increase in contract costs as well as a dependence on old data, he warned the total savings could drop by as much as 30 percent under current estimates. NOLA.com

LA: La. lawmakers question hiring Texas firm for prisoner care. Louisiana lawmakers are questioning a decison by the state Department of Corrections to hire a Texas company for telemedicine services for prisoners, rather than continuing to use the LSU health system. TheTownTalk.com

PA: Philadelphia: 4,000 Laid Off School Employees Working Their Last Days. Now that the district is grappling with a $304 million shortfall, 3,859 district employees are being laid off — most of them spending their last day on the job today. The district’s largest shedding of jobs in decades is wiping out entire categories, including school secretaries and nearly every assistant principal. Philadelphia Inquirer

PA: Liquor privatization bill reworked. The Senate Law & Justice Committee gutted the privatization bill that passed the House in March, replacing its provisions with a package that the committee chairman, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, unveiled last week. Instead of disbanding the state’s wholesale purchasing operation, the amended bill would require studies to assess the wholesale value of the system. Where the House bill would use a formula to shutter the state wine and spirits stores, the Senate amendment would allow the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to decide when outlets would close. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PA: Groups Voice Opposition to Liquor Privatization Plan. Groups opposed to a bill that would privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania held a rally at Mercy Hospital of UPMC Monday, saying the proposal would result in a rise in first responders’ workloads. 90.5 WESA

PA: Pension shenanigans – letter to editor. Why is the governor in such a hurry to privatize our pensions? Answer: His millionaire friends are simply salivating at the chance to put billions of dollars into their 401(k) and 403(b) programs. Then they can mismanage it, squander it and outright steal it. Do recent events on Wall Street and in these types of retirement programs ring a bell with anyone? Pittsburgh Post Gazette

IA: State received 2 bids for sale of Iowa Communications Network. The state of Iowa received two bids for the lease or purchase of its statewide communications network – and they both came from the same company….It’ll be up to the governor on whether to pursue a contract for privatizing the network, but any deal will have to be approved by the state Legislature. The Iowa Communications Network, created by the Legislature in 1989, is a fiber-optic network that reaches all 99 Iowa counties and provides video conferencing, telephone communications, data and Internet services to government agencies, schools, libraries and hospitals. Des Moines Register

ME: Amid Turmoil, Maine Legislature Fails to Ban Privatization of Charter Schools….One veto was of a bill that would have required all charter schools in the state to be nonprofit. NPQ has been tracking this argument for a while, demonstrating that there are a number of ways in which private organizations are taking public tax dollars. This bill, which was backed by as many as 97 legislators but was still four votes short of the number required for the override, would have ensured that taxpayer dollars intended for the education of students in the state would be used for that purpose, not for the profit of a few individuals. Non Profit Quarterly

NJ: New Jersey Signs Lottery Privatization Contract. New Jersey has become the third state—after Illinois and Indiana—to privatize the management of its state lottery. Under the 15-year contact, a private manager will take over the lottery’s marketing and sales functions  in exchange for an upfront . payment of $120 million and a contractual commitment to generate over $1.42 billion in additional net income for the state, relative to in-house operation. Budget & Tax News

OP-ED: When Education Is a Business. But what is happening to higher education today, as it undergoes a corporate makeover, is considerably less amusing. The sharply reduced government funding for public universities, the replacement of full-time faculty with low-wage, rootless adjuncts, the rapid development of mass, online courses for academic credit, and the increasingly pervasive corporate presence on campus all indicate more concern for the business-defined bottom line than for intellectual growth. Future satirists of university life will be hard-pressed to stay ahead of the emerging reality. HuntingtonNews.net