March 18, 2015


AR: School privatization bill pulled for this session. . . Republican Rep. Bruce Cozart told The Associated Press Tuesday that he has deferred the bill and that it won’t come up again this session. Cozart says he couldn’t get the cooperation needed from proponents and opponents to advance the proposal. The major force behind the bill were lobbyists financial tied to the Walton Family Foundation, which supports expansion of charter schools and has backed several enterprises that have harmed Little Rock School District desegregation efforts. The attention on Walton ties to the bill — a group that supports their aims took Cozart and other education committee members on a junket to Washington last summer. Arkansas Times

NJ: New bill gives DEP commissioner final say on Liberty State Park development plans. Any plans to commercially develop Liberty State Park would be subject to approval by the New Jersey’s chief environmental official under legislation that has won Assembly approval. . . . However, New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said commercial land use would still be possible under the legislation. In a statement, Tittell said the new version of the bill “nibbles around the edges, but still leaves many problems.” “The change that occurred today calls for the DEP Commissioner to sign off on plans for Liberty State Park, and a public hearing,” Tittel said. “However, it doesn’t stop privatization and leasing of land for commercial land use. We believe this legislation does not really fix the problems with original legislation.

IN: Indiana Toll Road execs to share $2.45 million bonus. The rich price fetched last week for the Indiana Toll Road means the top five executives of its bankrupt operator should be sharing a $2.45 million bonus pool as a reward for their services. ITR Concession Company CEO Fernando Redondo and the four executives under him will receive the money when IFM Investors closes on its $5.72 billion offer for the road, under the terms of an order issued in January in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The closing is expected within months. . . . Under the incentive bonus plan approved by the judge, the five top executives share a $1 million bonus pool if the road’s sale fetches more than $4.5 billion. But for every $1 million paid above $5 billion, the bonus pool grows by $2,000. The motion did not specify how the bonus pool is split among the five executives.

TX: Austin: Battle over toll roads underway. Toll roads are about as popular as tornadoes — a fact emphasized last fall when protests effectively put the brakes on a $500 million, 27-mile tollway connecting Garland and Greenville. Now the private Texas Turnpike Corp. and its 18 investors are fighting another blow in the form of an attempt to revoke its authority to condemn land for the stalled Northeast Gateway — or any other project, for that matter. Corsicana Daily Sun

DC: Graduation rates up in DC public schools, down for charter schools. Graduation rates for D.C. Public Schools increased last school year by two percentage points to 58 percent and fell by nearly seven points in the city’s public charter schools to 69 percent, according to data released by the Office for the State Superintendent of Education. Washington Post

NM: Victor Reyes: Public-private partners bill a bad deal for NM. . . Private companies are pushing hard to expand P3s in our state. HB 299 is one of the broadest, if not the broadest, pieces of P3 legislation in the country in terms of scope of authorized projects, breadth of governmental entities involved, lack of oversight (legislative and executive), lack of public transparency and financial risks. . . . HB 299 is a bad deal for New Mexico. In addition to the broad definition of “public projects” that are subject to privatization, HB 299 specifically lists dams, reservoirs, sewerage or water treatment facilities, water pipelines, habitat or environmental restoration, power plants, and other basic, essential environmental assets. When governments seek to privatize these services, the reality is that taxpayers get the short end of the stick. . . . Generally speaking, the more heavily the private sector is involved, the riskier the project is for the public — in financial, social and environmental terms. Examples from across the country have proven the need to take a very cautious approach to P3s. Deming Headlight

Higher Interest Rates Could Make Fixing America’s Infrastructure More Expensive. . . “I definitely think we need more infrastructure spending. My guess is, given the current makeup of Congress, it’s not going to happen anytime soon,” says John Canally, a vice president and economist at LPL Financial. “A lot of it might have to be done with the public-private partnerships which happened a lot in the mid-2000s.” Canally says infrastructure projects may be “a little less likely to happen” once interest rates go up, but he says the bigger impediment to surface transportation revitalization is tied to political budgetary squabbles. He says private companies may be more capable of investing in toll roads that could alleviate traffic congestion on federal and state roadways. He says such private sector investments are not hindered by politics and could be an infrastructural boon for the country if such investors are willing to pony up. “[Interest] rates might go up a quarter of a point, but these companies have so much cash on the sidelines that that almost doesn’t matter that much,” Canally says. “We saw a number of these toll roads and bridges done on a joint basis by public and private where the public sector bought it and sold it to the private sector. Those were big in 2004, 2005, 2006, before the downturn. That might be the way it has to get done in this decade as well given the backdrop in Washington and some of the state capitals.” U.S. News & World Report