August 18, 2015

Smoke and Mirrors Lie Behind Balanced-Budget Rhetoric. There are few things more creative than a state government in dire financial straits, which is to say most of them. States are well versed in all manner of financial chicanery, from simple accounting gimmicks to pushing off payments. . . . Privatization is among the most dangerous short-term fixes. Conservatives often tout privatization – converting government assets or functions over to the private sector – as a way to capture some of that good old private sector efficiency. Whether that is in fact true is dubious, but in practice privatization often means auctioning off state assets for some quick cash. Toll roads and state parkland are what has classically been privatized, though Ohio Gov. John Kasich pioneered prison sales. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker plans to sell the state’s power and heating plants without a competitive bidding process. TruthOut

Bush: Privatize More Veterans Care, Boost Active Forces.Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush wants to privatize more veterans care, make it easier to fire federal employees found responsible for poor treatment and overhaul the Pentagon to prioritize an increase in the number of active troops. . . . Bush, who has not serve in any military capacity, proposed that all 9 million veterans in VA care programs be free to choose doctors and other providers outside the VA system. Choice always yields “better outcomes,” Bush argued. Congress has already appropriated $10 billion over three years to allow flexibility for VA patients who cannot get an appointment within 30 days or who live 40 miles or more from a VA health facility. ABC News

As Toll Roads Expand, Freeways Risk Becoming a Passageway of the Privileged. In the future, travel on freeways will become more of a privilege than a right. As traffic congestion becomes the norm, toll roads will continue to become an expensive ticket to escape traffic jams. RYOT

IL: Emanuel moves to prevent repeat of infamous Chicago parking meter fiasco. It’s been a long time coming. Those iconic song lyrics came to mind a couple weeks ago, when Mayor Emanuel finally introduced a much-anticipated ordinance designed to protect city residents and taxpayers from another privatization fiasco like the parking meter abomination. To refresh your memory, the Daley administration sold the city’s parking meters to a private company in 2008 for more than a billion dollars in a bang-bang deal that violated multiple good government tenets: Aldermen had just two days to consider the transaction, so there wasn’t time for public hearings or due diligence; the profits were quickly spent on one-time budget fixes; and the cash-starved city was excluded from any future parking revenue beyond fines for meter violations. It was bad public policy and poor fiscal management. Reboot Illinois

TN: Haslam administration moves on privatizing management of state university buildings. Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is quietly moving to privatize the management and operations of the facilities of all state colleges and universities and the remaining state government buildings not already outsourced to the multinational property management giant Jones Lang LaSalle. . . News of the discussion was given to physical plant employees at UT Knoxville in an Employee Relations Council meeting last week, according to United Campus Workers, which represents campus facilities employees at some state colleges and universities. The group said “the dizzying scope of the RFI threatens to affect public services and tens of thousands of jobs across every county in Tennessee.” Memphis Commercial Appeal