May 4, 2015


US Senate negotiating to re-up with company paying cafeteria workers low wages. Even though salaries for those who serve them in Senate cafeterias are so low that some workers are on food stamps and one is even homeless — senators are considering signing the company responsible for those low wages for another long term contract, Senate sources tell CNN. That, as Senators and their aides around the halls of the Capitol are openly embarrassed and outraged in learning that many of the people who make their lunch every day or clean their toilets at night make such little money that they have to have second jobs or government assistance just to get by. 4029tv

The Public Sector is a Milk Cow For Private Enterprise. Social Security and Medicare are under attack from Wall Street, conservatives, and free market economists. The claims are that these programs are unaffordable and that the programs can be run more efficiently and at less cost if privatized. The programs are disparaged as “entitlements.” The word has come to imply that entitled people are getting something at great cost to everyone else. Indeed, entitlements have become conflated with welfare. In fact, Social Security and Medicare are financed by an earmarked payroll tax paid by employees. (Economists regard the part of the payroll tax that is paid by employers as part of the employee’s wage.) CounterPunch

FL: Bush wants to privatize some veterans’ health benefits, but in Florida it didn’t go so well. Jeb Bush’s effort as governor to partially privatize veterans health care services in Florida went so poorly it was ended shortly after Bush left office. That hasn’t stopped the former Republican governor, now in the early stages of running for president, from arguing veterans should be given the choice to see a public or private doctor, with either visit being paid for by the government. . . . .But Bush’s experience outsourcing veterans’ nursing homes in Florida was a case study in privatization’s pitfalls. By the time it was over, Florida officials determined the state could provide higher-quality care at a better price for taxpayers. Pembroke Pines and the two other privatized facilities continued to contract out their nursing and food services until after Bush left office. CNN

TX: House tentatively ok’s bill to strip private toll company’s eminent domain power. Lawmakers are one step closer to tapping the brakes on the Texas Turnpike Corp., a private toll company that drew scrutiny last year for its attempt to build a rural toll road from Garland to Greenville. The House on Friday preliminarily approved — with no debate — a bill to strip the company of its ability to use eminent domain power. The measure by Rep. Cindy Burkett would also require additional public notification before private toll road projects can be approved.   Dallas Morning News

TX: Toll road spends funny money and other outrageous doings in Dallas news. When Mayor Mike Rawlings put together a 12-person “Dream Team” panel of experts to review the Trinity toll road, its saving grace and the reason nobody could really complain about it is because it was financed by private donations and did not use taxpayer funds. It turns out that was not true. According to city records procured by city council member Philip Kingston, a dozen city employees spent more than 275 hours working on the Dream Team proposal. Kingston called this a misappropriation of public resources and an ethically questionable circumvention by Rawlings and city manager A.C. Gonzalez of the traditional procedure of consulting with the city council before expending city funds. CultureMap Dallas           

TX: TxDOT To Move Ahead With 249 Toll Road Despite Local Opposition. Grimes County Commissioners earlier opposed the toll road but changed their stance after TxDOT offered $4 million for new frontage roads and intersection improvements. Houston Public Media

NC: North Carolinians Declare Toll Roads “Highway Robbery”. . . “Fifty years is a long time,” reads a statement from advocacy group Widen I-77, in support of the protest and in reference to an ominous lease period for once the project is functioning. They have initiated a petition — with 755 signatories at this point — and contend that toll lanes create a socioeconomic division and mere façade of benefits: “Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization … is on record as saying HOT lanes will have ‘minimal impact on travel times.’” PanAm Post

IL: Rauner agency privatization idea raises oversight concerns. Gov. Bruce Rauner says his plan to privatize the state’s economic development agency will improve job creation in Illinois. But similar plans in other states and even in Chicago have sometimes raised concerns about transparency and oversight, with taxpayers not always knowing how their money was being spent. Albany Times Union

AZ: ADOT expands privatization of driver’s licenses. The state is making driver’s licenses available at four new privately owned businesses across Arizona as part of an effort by the Arizona Department of Transportation to privatize some of its services. The program makes driver’s licenses more accessible — but also more expensive. . . . Third-party operators are permitted to tack “convenience fees” onto the state’s standard driver’s license fees.

IA: Poll: Iowans reject Branstad’s plans for Medicaid, closing MHIs. Gov. Terry Branstad’s plans to save money by privatizing Medicaid and closing state mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda are strongly opposed by a majority of Iowa voters, according to a national opinion research firm.

WI: Wisconsin school voucher expansion remains possible while accountability bill flounders. As voucher school advocates in Wisconsin celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Milwaukee school choice program this week, an effort to pass a school accountability bill appears to be dead in the water.

WI: Zoo Services Privatization Goes Back to the Drawing Board. Perhaps realizing that it was doomed before the full Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, the proposed contract to privatize the Milwaukee County Zoo’s food, catering and concessions services was sent back to committee for further revisions. A major sticking point for supervisors had been granting exclusive catering rights at the zoo to the Denver-based Service Systems Associates (SSA) as part of the proposed 10-year contract.  Express Milwaukee

CA: Charter school dissolves amid charges of nepotism, fiscal mismanagement. Renew Virtual Academies, a charter school in the New Jerusalem School District, has been dissolved and its roughly 80 students absorbed into other sites amid allegations of fiscal mismanagement, nepotism and enrollment fraud against the school’s founder. Among the charges were that CEO Ellen Ringer hired her son, Deputy Executive Director of Business Services Christopher Walenta, at an annual salary of nearly $100,000 and paid other relatives without disclosing the relationships, New Jerusalem School District officials confirmed.   Stockton Record

LA: Legislators question value of privatizing Medicaid. After three years in operation, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature effort to privatize Medicaid might be saving taxpayers millions of dollars and providing about 20 percent of the state’s population with better health care. Or it might not. . . . Although Louisiana taxpayers pay only a small proportion of the costs — federal dollars make up the lion’s share — Medicaid is still the largest single expense in Louisiana’s $25 billion annual budget. Bayoubuzz

HI: Path to privatization cleared. Maui Memorial Medical Center and two other state-owned medical facilities could be privatized under a bill given final approval by state lawmakers Friday night, clearing the way for a possible takeover by the nonprofit Hawaii Pacific Health or another operator. Honolulu Star-Advertiser