December 31, 2014


Private Interests Coming to a Public School Near You. Government agencies are falling short in their efforts to reform education, so corporations are stepping in. But will they do more harm than good? The Atlantic

The Privatization of War: Private Mercenaries and the “War on Terror” in American Foreign Policy. . . Naomi Klein has commented that Iraq was more than a failed occupation, it was a “radical experiment in corporate rule.”5 Led by radical free-market ideologists, the Bush administration placed a primacy on deregulation, corporate tax cuts and privatizing state-run industry in Iraq, which was to be a shining model for the virtues of neoliberal capitalism. After Saddam’s government fell, Booz-Allen Hamilton, one of the Beltway’s biggest consulting firms, organized a conference which called for the rewriting of Iraq’s business, property and trade laws in ways conducive to foreign investment. The Bush administration ultimately tore down Iraq’s centralized, state-run economy without building anything to replace it while provoking civil war and putting in place a political system ensuring fierce regional and ethnic divisions.6   Center for Research on Globalization

PA: Pennsylvania School District on the Verge of Privatizing Public Education. The school district for York, Pennsylvania, may soon have all of its public schools operated by a private company as a result of a judge’s ruling. The York City School District developed financial difficulties two years ago, which led to the appointment of a local businessman, David Meckley, as the chief recovery officer. That put him in charge of the district’s financial matters except setting the tax rate. But now Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh granted a request from the administration of outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and turned control of the district to Meckley, who has advocated for converting all eight of the local public schools to charter schools that would be run by a for-profit company, Charter Schools USA. AllGov

CT: A Push For Privatizing Schools. Lately it has been impossible to watch television without being told by Families for Excellent Schools that 40,000 impoverished children are “trapped in failing schools,” and that this can be fixed. Hartford Courant

CT: Is Gov. Malloy warming up to tolls? Toni Boucher says they are a bad idea. As Gov. Dannel P. Malloy seemingly backed away from his reluctance to reintroduce tolls on Connecticut highways, as voiced during the fall election campaign, state Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) is holding firm on her view that tolls are really just another tax. “There is still no convincing evidence for making the case for tolls,” Ms. Boucher said in a press release issued Tuesday, Dec. 30. “The reintroduction of tolls would be another tax on top of the highest gas taxes in the country. This would further burden Connecticut’s overtaxed commuters and the business sector.” Wilton Bulletin

December 30. 2014


NJ: A New Jersey bid to privatize water without public votes. Until now, any municipality in New Jersey that sought to sell off its water system to a private bidder had to hold a public vote. But a bill passed with bipartisan support by the state’s Senate last week would allow municipalities with aging and deteriorating water systems to put their systems up for sale without holding a referendum. While supporters of the bill say privatizing water systems could save municipalities money, it allows companies to factor the purchase price of the systems into the rates they charge customers, meaning taxpayers could ultimately be on the hook for the sale of their water systems. Al Jazeera America

DC: Toll lanes lead way to major expansion of highway capacity in Virginia and Maryland. On Monday, the 95 Express Lanes will become high-occupancy toll lanes, combining with the 2-year-old HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway to form a network stretching from the outer suburbs in Stafford County, Va., to the office buildings and shopping centers of Tysons Corner. . . . Meanwhile, Maryland this fall completed the Intercounty Connector, which now stretches between Route 1 in Prince George’s County and Interstate 370 in Montgomery County. The state also opened the I-95 Express Toll Lanes along a congested portion of the interstate northeast of Baltimore. The District Department of Transportation announced in 2014 that it would study the possibility of adding HOT lanes to freeways stretching from I-295 at the Maryland border to the 14th Street Bridge. Highway users will note that the various programs have one thing in common: tolls. Washington Post

CO: U.S. Forest Service set to allow oil, gas drilling in — not on — Pawnee National Grassland in Weld County. The U.S. Forest Service’s recent “no surface occupancy” stipulation for developing oil and gas leases on more than 100,000 acres within Pawnee National Grassland is receiving a lukewarm reception from energy industry officials and environmental groups, especially as a policy precedent for drilling other federal lands. . . . Nichols said while the requirement precludes fracking, building well pads, roads, structures, or storing equipment on newly leased lands within the Pawnee Grassland — all important concessions — the Forest Service has adopted a “split-the-baby approach” that doesn’t address how off-site development could impact air and water quality and wildlife. . . . WildEarth Guardians and other groups want the Forest Service to extend its regulatory oversight to horizontal drilling sites on adjacent private lands in a “buffer” around the grasslands, but Reghan Cloudman, spokesperson for the Forest Service’s office in Fort Collins, said the agency’s land-use authority is limited to the grassland. Greeley Tribune

IL: New year to bring 40% toll increase for truckers. On Jan. 1, three years after tolls for passenger cars nearly doubled on the Illinois Tollway, rates for trucks and trailers will jump by 40 percent. That’s only the beginning. Two more 10 percent increases will kick in over the next two years, and beginning in 2018, annual toll rate increases for trucks and trailers will be linked to the consumer price index. The higher tolls are paying for the Tollway’s massive 15-year, $12 billion rebuilding and widening program called Move Illinois. The impact on the price of trucked goods is debated, however. Chicago Tribune

MS: State contract recommendations revealed. A governor-appointed task force reviewing corrections contracts in the wake of an alleged bribery scheme will recommend 12 actions, most with statewide implications, to prevent future contract abuse. The recommendations appear in a preliminary report (posted below this story) due Wednesday to Gov. Phil Bryant by the Task Force on Contracting and Procurement in the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The task force met Monday to finalize the report, and provided copies to the public. Three of the group’s proposals relate solely to MDOC, including: the cancelation of all no-bid MDOC contracts lasting more than six months; the elimination of all statutory bid exemptions for MDOC contracts; and the independent reviews of several areas of corrections operations.   Jackson Clarion Ledger

PA: Who says private utilities are better than city-owned? Despite all the claims by Philadelphia business leaders and Mayor Nutter allies that City Council President Darrell Clarke’s refusal to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works to Connecticut-based UIL has set back the already-battered cause of private business and hopes for a petro-based heavy-industry renaissance here, the national trend is actually in favor of “municipalization” of public utilities and away from private utility operators, as America emerges from recession and urban finances improve, writes veteran utility analyst Ryan M. Connors in a recent report to clients of Philadelphia-based Janney Capital Markets. The cities of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Nashua, N.H. have lately forced private, publicly-traded, for-profit utilities to sell their water systems and put them under citizen control, and Claremont, Calif. voters have approved borrowing money to buy back their own, Connors notes. (blog)

VA: Virginia toll lanes offer drivers convenience, but raise privacy concerns. . . The new system has set up 24/7 video surveillance to monitor whether or not motorists are obeying the high occupancy vehicle lane rules. But those images are stored in the system and can be accessed with a warrant, according to Mike McGurk, a senior corporate relations associate with Transurban, the Australian company that built the express lanes through a private-public partnership and which operates the technology used on the lanes. Washington Times



December 29, 2014


NJ: PATH could be targeted for privatization, service reduction under Port Authority plan embraced by governors. A report by the Port Authority that’s supported by the governors of New York and New Jersey floats the idea of eliminating overnight PATH service and turning over the system’s operation to an outside organization — public or private. Those ideas, along with others in the 99-page report that was released Saturday night, were slammed today by Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who said curtailing service on one of the region’s most vital transportation links would hurt not just his city’s economy, but the state as a whole.

IN: Some Toll Road employees may land bankruptcy bonus. The Indiana Toll Road’s private operator is asking a federal bankruptcy judge for permission to pay 38 of its employees up to $748,000 in retention bonuses.

When good toll roads go bad. Northern Indiana is not the first region in the nation to be subject to fallout from a toll road bankruptcy, with a number of other privatized roads and bridges going belly up across the nation in the past few years. The good news is those roads have continued to carry traffic with little disruption. The bad news is there is usually little communities can do to influence the bankruptcy process, except in cases where roads revert to government ownership.

December 24, 2014


Global investors eyed to fund US highway, bridge projects. . . The Obama administration, which had resisted private financing of public works, is starting a new center to serve as a one-stop shop for bringing capital into government projects. . . .Institutional investors such as Montreal-based Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec have capital and want to invest in U.S. infrastructure because it meets their long-term objectives, said Macky Tall, Caisse’s vice president of private equity and infrastructure. The Caisse is Canada’s second-biggest pension fund manager, with $190.7 billion in net assets as of June 30. There hasn’t been more investment because the U.S. is behind other countries in tapping private capital, Tall said, and there’s been a lack of expertise, legal authority or receptivity to it in some parts of the country. Yakima Herald-Republic

FL: Districts clamping down on charter schools. South Florida school districts are cracking down on the local charter school industry in the wake of a Sun-Sentinel investigation that exposed a rise in fly-by-night charter schools and few safeguards against renegade operators. In a blitz of action in recent weeks, Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties have refused to allow applicants with ties to failed schools to open new ones while Broward and Palm have used legal or municipal muscle to try to stem abuses. Several state lawmakers told the Sun Sentinel in November they would push for stronger laws during the next legislative session to ensure that newcomers to the charter school industry had financial backing and no prior history with shuttered schools. Sun Sentinel

LA: Federal government approves portions of LSU hospital deals, but not all of them. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration says federal officials have approved the six LSU hospital privatization contracts, though they rejected the advanced lease payment structure used to help pay for the deals — a potential $190 million blow to Louisiana’s state budget. . . . The rejection of the lease arrangements, however, threatens an important and significant element of the state’s privatization strategy. It also raises questions about any potential budget impact.

December 23, 2014


Federal Advisory Board Seeks Comment on Public-Private Partnership Disclosure. . . Whether projects are funded by tax dollars or business investments, people want to know how money is being spent. But how should public-private partnerships keep their books? In an effort to answer that question, the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB), a federal advisory committee tasked by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Comptroller General with developing accounting standards for federal entities, recently proposed a series of financial disclosure requirements for public-private partnerships. . . . The proposal requests that private partners disclose the purpose, objective, and rationale of their partnerships with public institutions, as well as the monetary and non-monetary benefits they receive from in exchange for their work. RegBlog (blog)

MN: Protective Privatizing: State Agency May Use Nonprofit to Keep Assets Focused. A novel, perhaps unprecedented, idea to privatize a state agency and spin off its huge economic development trust fund from the state to a private nonprofit is gaining traction in Minnesota. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports on an effort by leaders of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), to have state lawmakers approve the creation of a new, independent, nonprofit corporation that would take control of its $139 million trust fund. The Iron Range is a region in northeastern Minnesota with multiple distinct bands of iron ore. The goal, according to the paper, is to “lock away the agency’s economic development trust fund from outside raiders.” It’s an effort to keep the money away from legislators or a governor who may want to raid the account to cover non-Iron Range spending. The Nonprofit Quarterly

OH: Union-Busting & Privatization On Tap For Dayton Schools In New Year. When school resumes on January 5 for Dayton Public Schools (DPS), an out-of-state company will be in charge of placing substitute teachers (called “reserve teachers” in Dayton) in classrooms. For Wisconsin-based Parallel Employment Group, the one million dollar contract they scored in Dayton is their first foray into Ohio and, sadly, does not appear to be their last. This situation didn’t happen overnight, and it appears as though the strategy that Dayton is using to privatize services at the expense of union employees is self-created. Plunderbund

PA: Philadelphia should fear a charter takeover of York City schools. In spite of opposition from York City’s elected school board, York’s school district is on the verge of being turned over lock, stock, and barrel to a for-profit charter operator with ties to Florida Republicans Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush. Philadelphia Public School Notebook

December 22, 2014


NJ: Water privatization bill removing public vote requirement moves to Christie’s desk
A bill fast-tracking sale of public water systems into private hands was approved by the state Senate on Thursday, and will now head to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk. About an hour of debate preceded the vote on the Water Infrastructure Protection Act, which was approved 21-16 and would allow local governments to sell public water systems without a referendum, as is now required by law. “This is such a bad deal for the citizens of New Jersey,” said State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex). “This is crazy… just giving away our water supply.”. . . The bill, which was introduced in September, drew opposition from a wide variety of groups, including the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Food and Water Watch. . .If signed by Christie, the bill would allow public entities to sell their water infrastructure to private companies if certain conditions are proved, including whether a system is losing water or has salt intrusion. State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), another of the sponsors, unveiled an amendment to the bill earlier this month which he said narrowed the scope of which systems could be sold without a public vote.

KS: Study of privatizing Kansas public pensions sought
Two top aides to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback proposed Friday that Kansas study privatizing the pension system for teachers and government workers. . . Their list included converting pension benefits into annuities managed by a private insurer. . . The committee urged Brownback’s aides to gather more information about private companies’ experiences with such moves and present it once legislators open their next annual session Jan. 12. But members of both parties were skeptical. Clark said with converting pension obligations into annuities, a private company assumes the long-term financial risks for a fee, while the state can provide competitive benefits at a lower cost. . . .And Rebecca Proctor, interim executive director of the largest union for Kansas government employees, said private companies’ need for profits would compete with the pension system’s drive “to generate benefits for employees.” “Any time you put a profit motive in a state service, it’s a problem,” she said. Kansas First News

NY: New York Fashion Week Booted Out of Lincoln Center
C’est la vie, fashionistas. The city of New York and Lincoln Center are evicting the invitation-only, twice-yearly Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in a court spat over destroyed trees and displaced park benches. A judge Friday approved a pretrial settlement in a complaint brought by community groups. They objected to the onslaught of the fashion industry at Damrosch Park, a 2.4-acre stretch on the Upper West Side that is adjacent to and managed by Lincoln Center. The groups argued the insular nature of the fashion shows that draw top designers and hundreds of buyers, editors and journalists violate laws governing public use of the land.. . .”We objected to the whole idea of demolishing a park and of throwing the public out and of making this a place for raising money,” she said. “Private people aren’t supposed to be making money on it.” New York Times

IL: Emanuel vows to introduce his own privatization ordinance
Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Thursday to introduce his own ordinance spelling out how much time a City Council rushed into approving the hated parking meter deal would have to consider privatization deals and how the proceeds would be spent. A similar privatization ordinance championed by the anti-Emanuel Progressive Caucus has been languishing in a City Council committee for years. During a forum Thursday on ethics reform and good government issues, Better Government Association CEO Andy Shaw pressed the mayor on why he doesn’t support that ordinance. Instead, Emanuel said he would introduce a privatization ordinance of his own that would “codify” the process he used to evaluate and ultimately reject privatizing Midway Airport after one of only two bidders left the runway. Chicago Sun-Times

UT: State senator discusses possibility of toll road to cut commutes between Salt Lake, Tooele counties
A Utah senator is among those who want to consider creating a toll road that could cut commute times between Utah and Tooele counties by more than half. . . Osmond said they are looking into funding a toll road through a combination of public funds and money from private investors.

MO: Resurrecting I70 tolls may be a tough sell
. . . The idea of adding tolls to existing interstate highways has been raised — unsuccessfully — from time to time in Missouri and elsewhere. But Missouri is still one of three states with “provisional” authorization to impose tolls on an existing interstate as a pilot project. Kansas City Star

FL: Medicaid privatization may pose risk to those with complicated health needs
. . .But the new managed care system is also exposing some Floridians in Medicaid, the state/federal insurance program for children, the poor and disabled, to the uncertainties of the private market for the first time. . . . Malissa Miller applied for disability and was placed in the state’s new privatized, Medicaid managed care system, which offers different plans depending on your county of residence. But none of the Medicaid plans offered in Broward County, where Miller lives, allowed her to see the doctor she believed could save her life. . . . People with rare and serious conditions like Miller could be at risk of being denied the treatment they need in the private market, said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University and an expert on Florida’s Medicaid system. “This is exactly what I was worried about when Florida began moving to managed care,” Alker said. “There must be exceptions for people with rare conditions to access the care they need.” She called Miller’s initial inability to seek treatment at UM a potential sign of “network inadequacy.” Miami Herald

DC: The Shady For-Profit Company Poised To Take Over DC Prison Healthcare
. . .The largest private prison healthcare company in the country, Corizon has come under fire for neglecting and abusing inmates in Minnesota, Virginia, Florida, New York, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland and, most recently, Arizona. In a class action lawsuit this year on behalf of tens of thousands of inmates, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona documented many instances of abuse and neglect by Corizon in Arizona prisons. The suit eventually forced the state to agree to some reforms, though they have yet to fund and implement them. A major piece of that settlement will allow inmates’ attorneys to monitor the care Corizon provides them. ThinkProgress

CA: Congresswoman Maxine Waters Condemns RAD Public Housing Privatization Scheme
. . . In a Dec. 10 letter to the President, Waters states: “I am writing to express my concerns about the expansion of the new demonstration program at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that could have far-reaching and potentially long-term negative consequences for the nation’s public housing stock and the residents who rely upon this important resource. While created with the intention of preserving the nation’s stock of deeply affordable rental housing, I believe HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), may very well do more harm than good in diminishing a crucial public asset. I strongly urge the Administration to rethink its current strategy for preserving public housing, and renew the government’s commitment to advocate for full funding for the program.” Despite her letter to the President, during the past week President Obama signed the latest $1.1 trillion federal Spending Bill (H.R. 83). Among other things the latest spending bill expands the RAD program from allowing 60,000 public housing units to being privatized, to 180,000 units to be privatized and sold to the so-called affordable housing industry. Bay Area Indymedia

December 18, 2014


IL: Chicago Mayor Emanuel urged to resolve stalemate stalling council budget office. . . The office was created more than a year ago to provide aldermen with expert advice on mayoral spending, programs and privatization and guide the City Council through Chicago’s $20 billion pension crisis. The reform is stuck in the mud because of a stalemate over whether former independent Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) has the independence and policy expertise to lead the office as the first-ever, $107,000-a-year City Council Financial Analyst. Chicago Sun Times

MO: Nixon’s toll road proposal might face rough path forward. On Tuesday, Nixon, a Democrat, penned a letter to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission asking it to report back to him on the idea of using tolls to pay for Interstate 70 upgrades. That, he said, could free up existing money for other projects for the agency that he said will soon reach a “critical juncture” in its funding. . . State Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, said he does not buy into the notion that more funding for Interstate 70 could lead to more funding for transportation projects throughout the state. In fact, Lant, a member of the House Transportation Committee, said he thinks it could actually deplete resources if drivers avoid it by using other parallel routes that are available. PoliticMO

VA: Virginia Opens $950 Million I-95 P3 Lanes. Private investors will begin collecting tolls later this month on 29 miles of managed express lanes on a northern Virginia interstate highway under a concession agreement that extends to 2087.Funding for the $950 million project that was financed and built under Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act included: $280 million of private equity from Transurban and its partners in 95 Express Lanes LLC; $252.6 million of proceeds from tax-exempt private activity bonds; an $83 million state transportation grant; and $25 million of early development costs by Virginia Department of Transportation. Bond Buyer

VA: Stimpson blasts Virginia’s public-private deals. House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Falmouth, is facing a primary challenge from former Stafford County Supervisor Susan Stimpson, who accuses GOP leaders of favoring corporate partnerships at taxpayer expense. “The General Assembly’s public-private partnership deals, have developed a pattern of negotiating most of the financial risk on Virginia taxpayers,” Stimpson said of recent road projects. “The new HOT (high-occupany toll) lanes are an example of this. If the tolls do not reach the agreed upon revenue levels, then the taxpayers must kick in tax dollars to offset that shortfall.”

December 17, 2014


NY: NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools – And Gets Ignored. Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state’s top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found “practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst” at some charter schools. . . . Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified,” he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. “Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities.” It’s a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state’s major charter-school regulators – New York City’s Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York. He never heard back from any of them. “No response whatsoever,” Grannis said. Not even, he added, a “‘Thank you for your letter, we’ll look into it.’ That would have been the normal bureaucratic response.” ProPublica

NJ: On privatization, Gov. Christie should practice, not preach, government transparency: Opinion. . . Look no further than the deal he cut to privatize the country’s most successful lottery, worth $2.7 billion in yearly sales. . . .The “winning” bidder was a joint venture called Northstar New Jersey, which includes GTECH Corp. The politically astute lottery operator hired two of Christie’s closest confidantes to see the bid through: the law firm of David Samson, who led the governor’s transition team, was paid millions for lobbying . . . GTECH is on record as a $100,000 donor to the Republican Governor’s Association while Christie was chair – and after the governor agreed to lower the company’s first-year revenue target, benefiting the company and costing New Jersey taxpayers. In his absolute veto of legislation that establishes guidelines and increases accountability in privatization deals (S-770, A-2873) the governor slammed the door on a bill that would have created sorely needed transparency and accountability in contracts that turn government services like the state lottery over to a private agency. If this bill was law, the governor’s flawed lottery deal wouldn’t have happened.

MO: Toll road proposal could add $20 to cost of drive across Missouri. A toll road proposal for Interstate 70 could result in an additional $20 in tolls for people driving between St. Louis and Kansas City. KMBC Kansas City

TX: State Road Officials Balk at a Few Straight Questions About that “Blacklands” Toll Road. Sooner or later we’re going to find out who’s really pushing behind the scenes for that private “Blacklands” private toll road they want to build northeast of Dallas from Rowlett to Greenville. And I don’t mean the private dudes who want to build it for profit. I mean who in local government has been carrying their water. Dallas Observer (blog)

VA: Tolling group: Va. express lanes ‘a glimpse into the future’. New toll lanes on Interstate 95 in northern Virginia are “a glimpse into the future” of transportation funding, the group that lobbies for more tolling on U.S. roads in Washington is arguing. . . . Tolling advocates have pushed Congress to lift a current ban on states placing tolls on existing highway lanes as lawmakers have struggled to come up with new ways to finance infrastructure construction in the U.S. . . Opponents of expanding tolling in the U.S. have pushed back against the idea of easing the restrictions on existing highways, arguing that charging drivers for roads that are currently free will result in increased traffic on alternative routes.   The Hill

LA: Rewritten LSU hospital deals still pending in federal review. . . Gov. Bobby Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU-run hospitals without first getting needed federal approval. The privatization deals rely on federal Medicaid money to work. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services refused financing plans for the six privatization arrangements in May, so the state reworked the contracts. Shreveport Times

KS: Kansas child support and cost to collect it fall. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is reaffirming his support of a privatized child support system, arguing that costs have declined. He also said overall results have been good. . . . His comments come after The Capital-Journal revealed in November that collections have fallen since privatization, with the percentage of current support collected at a 14-year low. The paper obtained data about child support collections through an open records request. The data show the state is collecting the smallest percentage of current support due since 2000. . . . Kansas also is doing a worse job post-privatization in another key area: collection on late support. The collection percentage on arrears (support past due) fell to a 13-year low. For FFY 2014, the percentage stood at 60.14 percent. Topeka Capital-Journal


December 16, 2014


FL: Protesters Call New MDX Tolls “Tollmageddon”. Monday marks one month since the new Miami-Dade Expressway tolls were put into place, a day which a group of protesters mark as, “Tollmageddon.”. . . . The group, called TEAM305, is trying to get attention and raise concern about the added tolls on the 836 and 112. They believe the increase in tolls is just too much. . . . “I’m spending about an additional $30 a month just with the new tolls they’ve implemented cause I have to drive back and forth to work,” said Vallejo. Tony Rodriguez said he’s spending an additional $60-$80 a month because of the added tolls. . . . The protestors are hoping to get the current tolls decreased—and let the people decide. . . . In addition to protesting, the group started petition online, #NoMoreTolls. CBS Local

KS: Topeka Considers Privatizing Public Health Clinics to Nonprofit

The long-standing national trend of government outsourcing primary services to private operators, both nonprofit and for-profit, marches on. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County, home to the city of Topeka, will outsource the county’s primary care services to a nonprofit health center. The County Commission last week asked the Wichita-based GraceMed Clinic to take over operations of Shawnee County’s community health center. It has been considering outsourcing its clinical services to a private nonprofit since the spring of this year. The Nonprofit Quarterly

IN: Feds Advance Illiana Toll Road. The federal government has given Illinois and Indiana the go ahead to advance plans for a more than $1 billion bistate toll road both states hope to build with financing from a public-private partnership. Bond Buyer           

KS: Missouri, Kansas face tough calls with road funds. Missouri and Kansas are both facing issues with highway funds, as the Show-Me State again explores the idea of collecting tolls on Interstate 70 and Kansas may borrow from highway funds to fix its budget shortfall. KMBC Kansas City

VA: Increasing oversight on road projects – editorial . . . State lawmakers have wrestled in the past few years over how to modify the law without bogging down efforts to upgrade Virginia’s transportation system. They increased public notice and provided more time for competing bids, and they approved an amendment to preclude a governor from inflicting the kind of damage that McDonnell’s administration did to the Port of Virginia when members tried to circumvent the legislature and privatize port operations. Last week, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a plan to amend the law to include provisions that promote greater transparency and accountability. . . .Public-private partnerships may well be necessary and beneficial to the public for certain projects. But, as the McDonnell administration’s reckless application of the law has shown, more safeguards need to be in place to protect Virginians’ interests. The measures announced last week should be approved. The Virginian-Pilot

MD: State revenues to decline by more than $271M. . . The latest figures make Gov.-elect Larry Hogan’s budget-balancing task even more daunting. He’s already getting unsolicited advice on how to accomplish it and dire warnings on what should be considered sacrosanct. . . . Other budget-balancing suggestions include raising eligibility requirements for entitlement programs and privatizing some state agencies, like the Department of Business and Economic Development. “Pushing off some of the cost onto the private sector or public-private partnerships, we’ve seen that with the port,” Irani said. WBAL Baltimore

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