April 2, 2015


Privatization of Medicare: Urgency of the Latest Threat. This is a dangerous time for Medicare. The bill passed by the House on March 27, by a surprising bipartisan majority of 392-37–H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015–threatens to end traditional Medicare as a social insurance program that protects seniors in a single large risk pool. The Senate is set to vote on the bill in two weeks. Huffington Post

Obama bill would ease tolling ban.The $478 billion transportation bill that the Obama administration sent to Congress this week is reigniting a debate about increasing the use of tolls to pay for new infrastructure projects. For the second year in a row, the administration included language in its infrastructure plan that would lift the ban on states placing tolls on existing highway lanes. The anti-tolling Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI) said Obama’s tolling proposal, part of a larger draft dubbed Grow America Act 2.0, should be a nonstarter with lawmakers. The Hill

16 states have more people in prison than in college dorms. A new report from MetricMaps details a shocking statistic — in 16 states in the nation, there are more people locked up in correctional facilities than those residing in college dorms. Most of the states highlighted in the report are in the South and most of the inmates are Black.. . . Joe Jones, Founder and CEO of the Center for Urban Families, said, “Privatizing prison management is big business.” “These private industries contract with governments, they put quotas in place in their contracts to say that the states have to maintain a certain level of occupied beds in order to fulfill those contracts. So if a state doesn’t have X number of inmates in a cell, the state then has to pay a fee to the contractor who is managing the prison. “That is unconscionable and I don’t think most of us understand how the prison industry works.” New Pittsburgh Courier

NJ: After Christie’s Privatization, N.J. Lottery Missing Targets. When Chris Christie privatized New Jersey’s lottery two years ago, he said its new overseers would “modernize and maximize” the games.  Instead, a lottery once ranked among the nation’s top performers is now lagging for the second straight year, trailing its state income targets by $64 million seven months into the current fiscal year. Meanwhile, the company running it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire lobbyists and a public relations firm with close ties to the governor. U.S. News & World Report

IN: Indianapolis Council Dems: Outsourcing Justice Center construction could cost millions. . . Brown’s analysis, however, found that “it is not possible to achieve 100 percent coverage of availability of payments to WMB (Heartland Partners, the current “preferred private vendor” to build the new complex) without risking cuts to budget obligations unrelated to the project and/or needing an increase in new tax revenue.” The analysis lists the shortfall in funding for such payments at $37.7 million between 2018 and 2026. In addition, Brown’s review found public-private partnerships are “very rare” in the U.S. in the construction of public buildings. His study cites just one other similar infrastructure project, the Long Beach, California Courthouse, as using such a financing mechanism. The analysis concludes that the proposed public-private partnership funding method “is not the most cost effective way” to finance the proposed project. Instead, it suggests a “city financed, design-build project that finances life-cycle costs and uses a favorable operating and maintenance agreement.” WISH-TV

WA: State gives first charter school last chance to improve. The state Charter School Commission sent a letter this week to First Place Scholars in Seattle outlining a third problem at the former private school that re-opened as Washington’s first charter school in September. The new issue involves services to students who are just learning to speak English. The letter from the commission says the school took money from the state to provide special academic help to English language learners but did not do so. KOMO News