August 19, 2013


OR: Liquor theft soars in Washington after privatization, but remains low in Oregon. A sudden, dramatic rise in liquor thefts in Washington could be seen as collateral damage from the state’s recent move to privatization — part of the cost of changing to a free market model. Or, the hike in booze-stealing could be read as a cautionary tale for Oregon, where voters may get asked to end our distinction as the lone West Coast state with a government monopoly on liquor sales.

PA: Despite Increased Income from Liquor Sales in Pennsylvania, Privatization Still a Priority. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board reported revenue near $2.2 billion for fiscal year 2012-2013, a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year. In addition, contributions to various state agencies and the general fund exceeded a record-setting $660 million dollars. Still, this news doesn’t sway Gov. Tom Corbett, who remains a proponent of privatizing the state’s liquor system. A plan from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), and supported by Corbett, calls for the state to close its more than 600 Wine & Spirits Stores and then issue 1,600 licenses to sell wine and distilled spirits.  90.5 WESA           

TX: TxDot moving toward toll roads. The issue is an internal rule change TXDot is requesting. It would essentially allow them to do what the Legislature refused to let them do this past session. And that is to enter into unlimited numbers of so-called public-private partnerships, where a private company builds a toll road, and collects the revenue. “These public/private partnerships is where they sell of our roads to these, mostly foreign, private companies,” says Terri Hall, President of the grassroots group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, or TURF. “And the first foreign-owned toll road in Texas that opened is not even getting half the traffic that was projected.” But the most outrageous part is, if the toll revenue doesn’t meet its target, the state guarantees the difference. That would come from the Highway Fund, which is already strapped. “It basically puts all Texas taxpayers on the hook to pay back these private toll operators,” Hall declared. KETK           

TX: Kaufman County Sheriff halts negotiation to privatize jail due to lack of employee guarantees. Commissioners hope to save approximately $1 million annually by privatizing the county jail. Sheriff Byrnes agreed to investigate the possible cost savings but only with the stipulation that “the current jail staff be protected as relates to their employment status and benefits.” …. On August 12, 2013, Commissioner Vrzalik placed an item on the Commissioners’ Court consent agenda without the employee protection clause which was subsequently passed. According to Byrnes, “This was a deliberate act to sabotage the jail privatization efforts on the part of Commissioner Vrzalik.” Byrnes concluded by stating, “Therefore, all efforts and/or negotiations to privatize the Kaufman County Jail are halted.”

WI: Exodus of top Milwaukee bus drivers feared under Texas-based manager. Transit employees fear their pension plan could be dissolved if Milwaukee County awards the transportation contract to MV Transportation, a for-profit company based in Texas. About 21% of the more than 1,000 employees of the transit system will be eligible to retire by year’s end, according to a transit system spokesman. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

IL: Chicago Mayor hopes warning is ticket to deterring illegal use of disabled parking cheats. The abuses have cost Chicago taxpayers millions of dollars in reimbursements to Chicago Parking Meters LLC, the private company running metered parking citywide under the meter-privatization deal championed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The deal requires City Hall to reimburse the company for free parking provided to drivers displaying disability placards or plates. Those payments have soared to a total of nearly $55 million since the company began running the meter system in 2009 and started to sharply raise meter rates. Chicago Sun-Times

DE: Deal to keep Dole at Port of Wilmington is hailed. The Diamond State Port Corp., which runs the port for the state, has made several price concessions to Dole, and Delaware has agreed to make capital improvements at the port that would benefit Dole, including $34 million assigned to the port over a three-year period. That would pay for buying two cranes and renovating cold-storage warehouses. That expenditure had been up in the air while the state considered bringing in a private company to lease, improve and manage the port. Earlier this year, the state put that effort on hold after the leading bidder, Kinder Morgan, suspended its bid amid community opposition.

WA: State mulls privatizing websites, printing. Washington state government is belatedly wrapping up a review of services for possible privatization and could make its biggest decision so far – whether to farm out state printing – as early as this week. The decision would follow the state’s conclusion last week that it can’t save money by contracting with a private courier service to deliver interoffice mail to far-flung locations. State employees will keep that work.

Helium Reserve Faces Shutdown. When Congress returns to Washington next month, it will have just weeks to prevent a shortage of helium that could deal a blow to a range of industries. Unless Congress acts to wind it down more gradually, the Federal Helium Reserve, which supplies more than one-third of the world’s crude helium, will shut down on Oct. 8…. Congress has been working to privatize the nation’s helium system since 1996, when lawmakers agreed to start paying off the $1.3 billion debt the government accumulated to buy helium in earlier decades from private companies that were extracting helium from natural gas.  Wall Street Journal