July 14, 2014


MI: Prison food supplier has Michigan officials at wit’s end
Maggots in the kitchen and on the chow line. Workers caught smuggling contraband or engaging in sex acts with inmates. Food shortages and angry prisoners. Those are among the problems that have plagued Michigan prisons since December when the state — in a move aimed at saving more than $12 million a year — switched from using state workers to feed prisoners to a private contractor, Aramark Correctional Services of Philadelphia. Ongoing turmoil with the 7-month-old contract — including many instances never previously disclosed — is detailed in more than 3,000 pages of state records obtained by the Free Press under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.  Detroit Free Press

TX: High-Speed Texas Toll Road Considered in Default by Moody’s
Moody’s Investors Service has announced it considers the Texas toll road that has the highest speed limit in the country in default for failing to make its full June debt payment. . . . The privately developed and operated road that runs south from Austin to the town of Sequin located east of San Antonio has struggled financially since its 2012 opening. . . . The Texas Department of Transportation “increased the speed limit to 85 mph with the intention to pull fast-moving trucks off more local routes and Interstate 35,” Moody’s said in its advisory. Truckers have said, however, there’s little advantage in using the 41-mile toll road because most trucks are governed around 65 mph, and the road stops short of where I-35 reaches the Mexican border. Transport Topics Online

TX: The case against tolls roads on 281 and beyond
Forcing drivers to pay tolls to get U.S. 281 expanded in north Bexar County is a double-tax rip-off that won’t solve congestion. Here’s why. The expansion of U.S. 281 was already paid for with gas taxes. Official documents showed $100 million allocated to the project until mid-2008 when the money vanished into thin air and no one ever accounted for where it went. Now officials want us to pay a new tax — tolls — to get U.S. 281 expanded.   mySanAntonio.com

CA: Highway 156 private toll road concept explored
Highway 156 could become a privately operated toll road in an effort to pay for a long-delayed widening project for the crucial link between the Monterey Peninsula and the Bay Area. On Wednesday, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County board of directors approved an agreement with Caltrans to explore a partnership with a private entity capable of helping pay for and construct the highway project in exchange for a share of the toll road proceeds. . . . A group of North County residents, including Prunedale’s Jeff Irwin, spoke in opposition to the private toll road at Wednesday’s meeting. They argued it could result in much higher project costs and inaccurate revenue projections that could lead to bankruptcy and an expensive taxpayer-funded bail-out. Irwin pointed to a Southern California privately operated toll road that nearly tripled in cost to build and ended up requiring a public buy-out when the operator sued the local transportation agency over planned traffic improvements. In addition, the neighbors predicted their roads would be inundated by travelers seeking a way around the toll road, and Prunedale resident Doug Kasunich promised “organized opposition” from area folks.  Monterey County Herald

KS: Editorial: Kansas’ Ruinous Tax Cuts
There was only one reason for the state’s plummeting revenues, and that was the spectacularly ill-advised income tax cuts that Mr. Brownback and his fellow Republicans engineered in 2012 and 2013. The cuts, which largely benefited the wealthy, cost the state 8 percent of the revenue it needs for schools and other government services. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, that’s about the same as the effect of a midsize recession.. . . .With less money to spend, Kansas is forced to chop away at its only hope for real economic expansion: investment in public schools and colleges. While most states began restoring education funding after the recession, Kansas has cut K-12 spending by 2 percent over the last two school years, and higher education by 3 percent since 2012. New York Times