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Monday, June 30, 2008

Leasing the turnpike is a better way for Pa

Former PA Transporation Secretary (and Turnpike Commissioner) Howard Yerusalim on the Turnpike lease in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Already, similar public-private lease arrangements are working in Indiana and the city of Chicago, demonstrating that sound public-private partnerships make bipartisan sense. With the interest from lease arrangements, Indiana has paid off bonds and delivered $150 million for county transportation needs, while Chicago has invested in community projects, created a rainy day fund, and paid down its debts.

Critics have suggested the consortium unfairly benefits from federal tax law that allows companies to write off large investments. For those concerned with the tax code, I suggest a lobbying trip to Washington.

In the meantime, consider this: Is it such a bad idea to offer the private sector incentives to invest in our ailing transportation system? For my money, $12.8 billion in the bank, safer roads and bridges, no tolls on I-80, and expanded public transit seem to be no-brainers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Is it a bad idea to offer the private sector incentives..."? No. Is it a bad idea to offer these incentives for infrastructure already owned by the state, and for which the state is responsible? I think there needs to be more debate. Infrastructure and maintenance of the commonly held property of the state is among the highest of a government's priorities, if not the highest. Why do we have to look for _more_ money for this purpose in the first place? Why aren't less important (read: benefiting less than the entire population of the state) programs pushed aside for this?
If $12.8B in the bank is such a good idea, why not lease all commonly held property? Money in the bank is the over-riding goal, right? Regarding the rest, yes, they're no-brainers, but given that they are, why can't we find money in the existing budget for them? (Not sure I'm buying into the expanded public transit bit, though. Libertarians, how do you feel about this?)
Again I say, this is back-door borrowing by the state. Abertis must borrow in order to afford the payment, which gives us cash up front. Abertis' loan is paid by those of us who "buy" the commodity offered, regardless of whether it's a bond or a toll. Bond issues and borrowing should be examined on the surface, not buried in lease and economic development deals.