June 5, 2014


Study findings: TVA should not be sold; analysts reject Obama’s call to privatize utility. Selling TVA wouldn’t yield much for American taxpayers, but it could prove costly for Tennessee Valley residents and the region’s economy and environment, according to an outside financial review of America’s biggest government utility. In $1 million study prepared for White House budget planners, Lazard Freres & Co. said if TVA had to earn the financial returns of private utilities, electricity rates would jump by 13 percent. At the same time, dismantling its power and nonpower programs could hurt TVA’s recreation, economic development and environmental programs. . . . The Obama administration has suggested in two budget proposals that TVA might be sold, privatized or transferred to state or local governments to help cut its associated federal debt. . . . But, spurred by a slowdown in power demand, TVA has tightened its belt, scrapped aging coal plants and suspended work on the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant. The utility cut capital spending plans by $13 billion and annual operating costs by $500 million. Chattanooga Times Free Press

FL: Public-private transit projects planned. The first major project to be accomplished through a public-private partnership could be the proposed rail line from Miami to Miami Beach, said Mr. Scurr, the trust’s executive director. With high ridership on the line practically a given, he said, it shouldn’t be hard to attract interest from the private sector. And the partnership could go beyond a normal construction and operating agreement to one that also offers a private partner the opportunity to develop property along the route.  Miami Today

TX: Toll road opponents planning so-called funeral for Trinity Parkway. Organizers of a tongue-in-cheek, New Orleans-style jazz processional through the Bishop Arts District admit that the planned $1.5 billion toll road is far from officially dead. But they say the project’s costs and potential impacts have grown so dramatically since voters last approved the riverside road that it’s time to shelve plans. . . .  “You have an equal and opposite reaction to the ridiculousness that is this project,” said Jason Roberts, a long-time community activist who is helping organize the event. The parkway is perhaps the most contentious piece of the city’s long-held but frequently embattled plans for the Trinity River Corridor Project. The ambitious venture aims to turn the vacant floodway into a massive urban park filled with lakes, recreational areas and trails.  Dallas Morning News

OR: Oregon grocers abandon liquor-privatization effort. Grocers who sponsored ballot measures to end Oregon’s state liquor monopoly have given up for this year, saying Wednesday that there’s not enough time left for them to round up signatures. The grocers prepared two versions of their proposed initiative with slightly different language, but they still haven’t received approval to begin collecting signatures for the one they prefer. They would need 87,000 valid signatures on that measure by July 3 to qualify for the November ballot. Initiative proponents said they will continue seeking privatization of liquor sales through the Legislature or the 2016 ballot. KPIC News

IL: Illiana gets push from Quinn. Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration wants lawmakers to make the proposed Illiana Expressway more attractive to private investors by guaranteeing toll revenue shortfalls will be covered by dipping into the state’s road fund ahead of other projects. The 47-mile tollway between Indiana and Illinois would be placed at the top of the funding list under draft legislation backed by the Illinois Department of Transportation. That’s intended to sweeten a potential deal for the $1.5 billion project that some lawmakers and regional planners contend is not a critical need, will spur little economic development and threatens to become a painful financial drain on a state buried in debt. Critics of the proposal also question the legislation’s timing — Quinn faces a tough re-election campaign this year against Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner. The expressway would serve an area in the southern Chicago suburbs, and Quinn has for years used the project to talk up job creation.  Agri News

NC: NC lawmakers likely to consider plan to privatize part of economic development effort. The bill would shift the state’s corporate recruiting from the Commerce Department to a private nonprofit that can raise money from private donors to pursue companies considering new factories or expansions. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker says the new arrangement will put the state’s recruiting efforts more on par with how the corporate world operates. Critics say similar efforts elsewhere have been marred by ethics scandals and a lack of transparency about how the money is spent. A similar bill cleared a Senate committee later Wednesday and heads to another panel Thursday.  The Republic

OH: Charter school dream turns to nightmare. . . For the first time, the state is cracking down on charter school sponsors – the nonprofit entities in charge of overseeing the schools. Sponsors are now on notice they are not to take on risky schools, a move that could lead to a wave of closures like VLT. . . . Critics of charter schools say it’s about time. They said the lack of oversight has cost millions in public dollars and has led to fraud, corruption and sometimes criminal charges. “Until recently the state never saw a charter school it didn’t like,” said William Phillis, author of the blog Ohio Coalition for Equity and Advocacy of school funding. “Recently because of audits and because people are awakening to the egregious nature of the charter school industry, the state has become embarrassed with the tragic waste of money on these charter schools. So the state officials have become more aggressive in recent months in monitoring these schools.”  Cincinnati.com