December 15, 2014


Are car rental companies profiting from toll roads?. . . . When Moore returned the vehicle, a company called Highway Toll Administration, which bills itself as the largest provider of toll services for the rental car industry, mailed her an invoice. It tacked an additional $2.95 a day to her bill — a total of $11.80 for the privilege of a “pay by plate” option with the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. “This information is listed in very small print on the car rental agreement,” she says. “But what’s the convenience fee for?”. . . That’s a question many car renters are asking as the number of AET roads expand. Of the 5,300 miles of toll roads in the USA, roughly 200 miles are all-electronic, with nearly 100 new miles being added every year, according to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. USA TODAY

Going Beyond Private Versus Public. The new, more Republican Congress may “privatize” the United States Postal Service: dismantle the public enterprise and turn mail services over to private enterprises. Such a privatization would mimic what the US military has done with part of its activities and what many states and cities did with utilities, transport systems and schools. Privatizers always assert that private enterprises function more efficiently and will thus cost society less than public enterprises. Evidence for such assertions ranges from slim to none. Truth-Out

IN: IBM, Indiana to mediate welfare contract dispute. IBM Corp. and the state of Indiana are turning to mediation in hopes of settling their dispute over IBM’s failed attempt to privatize Indiana’s welfare services. . . . An IBM-led team of vendors won a state contract in 2006 to privatize Indiana’s welfare service. The team’s push introduced call centers, the Internet and fax machines as means by which residents could apply for benefits, and removed specific case workers assigned to each household. That new system quickly became mired in complaints from lawmakers, welfare clients and their advocates about long wait times, lost documents and improper rejections. Welfare applicants also complained about being left on hold for long periods and the reduced or eliminated face-to-face contact with case workers. Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels canceled the contract in 2009, less than three years into the 10-year deal, and Indiana and IBM countersued each other. Indianapolis Business Journal

NJ: NJ Lottery Numbers Fall Short in First Year of Switch to Private Operator. Gov. Chris Christie privatized the state lottery last year, in what was billed as an effort to make the system more profitable. But now the contractor running the system is reportedly running up higher costs and bringing in less revenue, falling short of projections by about $24 million in its first year, according to Bloomberg News. NJ Spotlight

KS: Governor calls privatizing child support system a good move. Governor Sam Brownback says privatization of the state’s child support collection system has been a good move because it made collecting the money more cost-effective. But while the governor says Kansas collected $5.89 for every $1 spent collecting it in fiscal year 2014, other data indicate the state collected the lowest percentage of child support in the past 14 years. . . . The state also collected less in total dollars for parents in 2014 than in the previous year, while the percentage of payments in arrears that was collected hit a 13-year low. KAKE

MI: Public money for schools buys private property. National Heritage Academies, Michigan’s largest charter management company, has an unusual arrangement with its schools. The for-profit company — and not the schools — owns the contents of its school buildings, even though those desks, computers, books and supplies may have been purchased with taxpayer money. The company also owns most of the buildings where it manages schools. NHA fronts the money to build or renovate those properties, recouping its investment through rents charged to the schools. Those rents, paid with public dollars, generally don’t come down even after NHA has recovered its initial investment, according to an eight-part series — “State of Charter Schools” — the Detroit Free Press published in June. Ownership of both the school building and its contents means charter school boards have little leverage to remove the company if they are unhappy with NHA’s stewardship. If NHA is fired, it could take school property with it. Detroit Free Press