Thom Tillis, Walter Dalton on SAME PAGE re: HOT lanes and toll roads

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Speaker Senator Speaker Senator (Spenakor ??) Thom Tillis has gone to the mat defending the idea of using HOT Lanes and toll roads to finance road improvements in North Carolina.

Well, we — being the resourceful folks we are — have dug up some footage from the 2012 gubernatorial where Democrat nominee and then-Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton was speaking favorably of the HOT lane concept and more specifically P3s (public-private partnerships) for financing new roads and improvement of existing roads.

State Rep. Robert Brawley (R-Iredell) is buttressing his reputation as a fierce toll road / HOT lane opponent by releasing this statement:

As an American and lifelong Republican, I am all for free markets and business success. What I do not stand for is propping up industries or companies that cannot survive and prosper on their own merits. If you succeed by building a better widget or offering a better service than your competitor, hats off to you. However, if your business model is based on deceit, spreading propaganda and riding on the coattails of American taxpayers, shame on you. Unfortunately for millions of Americans, legislators are selling-out America’s prime infrastructure assets to corporations and private entities looking to capitalize off of the public and America’s infrastructure that was purchased, built and maintained with taxpayer funds. Whether it is roads, water systems or utilities, corporations and private entities are pervasively colluding with politicians to garner the acceptance of Private Public Partnerships (P3s).


Let’s be honest. Private companies do not exist to give away goods or services. Their goal is to earn a profit and return substantial gains to their investors. That is a worthwhile goal from a business standpoint; however, it is a conflict of interest when companies are tasked with supplying essential public services. In contrast, government services are designed to serve the public – not profit from the public. You cannot serve the public’s basic infrastructure needs in an equitable fashion if your goal is to make a profit. 


P3s do not reduce “big government”, they only increase it with the insertion of “big business”. Private companies can be just as inefficient as the public sector, and are no less prone to project overruns or management mistakes. Whether it’s a government project or a corporation, you still have human beings at the helm. Greed, human error and mismanagement exist in both the private and public sectors – just ask Enron or Lehman Brothers. 


The American public depends on the equitable accessibility to basic needs, such as water, roads and emergency services. Seeking ways to profit from the public for services that they cannot pick and choose from (such as the airport they use, the interstate they drive on, or the water they drink) is essentially forcing the public to buy your product – that is not a free market practice.


Whether it’s through tolls or taxes, the source of revenues are still people. P3s create fertile ground for monopolistic and corporate cronyism practices. Government that is By the People and For the People should steer clear of partnerships that increase the gains of the private sector at the expense of the public. Socialist and non-democratic countries do P3s very well, which is another example why they are an un-American practice.

Brawley backs up his argument by citing an article from Dollars and Sense magazine: 

In 1995, California granted a private company the right to construct express toll lanes along the State Route 91 freeway in Orange County, a region inhabited by millions, with some of the heaviest traffic flows in the nation. This was the first modern privatized highway in the United States. The California Private Transportation Company (CPTC), a partnership of three corporations—Level 3 Communications, Granite Construction, Inc., and the French toll operator Cofiroute SA—completed the project with $130 million in mostly privately sourced money. To recoup this expense, and to make a profit, CPTC was given a 35-year concession to operate the toll route. State leaders promised that the private company would provide greater efficiency and savings, and that the public would benefit from clear and safe roads, even during a time of government budget constraints.

It did not take long for things to unravel. The SR-91 toll lanes did not unclog what local traffic reporters referred to as the “Corona Crawl,” so state and local officials sought to expand nearby highways to ease worsening congestion and improve safety. When transportation offices announced the improvement plans, CPTC unexpectedly filed a lawsuit, citing a non-compete clause in their contract to build and operate the toll lanes. The people of California were legally blocked from improving their highways because it could reduce private profits. In 2003, the Orange County Transportation Authority was forced to purchase the SR-91 toll lanes for $208 million to put an end to the fiasco.


The main source of project financing, however, comes from investment banks that lend to the consortium partners. P3 proponents claim that this private financing source is a solution to the budgetary constraints of governments that face huge backlogs of deferred infrastructure investment. A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, however, shows the flaw in this argument: “The case is sometimes made that using funds from private capital markets to finance roads can increase the resources available to build, operate and maintain roads,” the report notes. “But the sources of revenues available to pay for the cost of a highway project —whether it uses the traditional financing approach or a public-private partnership—are the same: specifically, tolls paid by users or taxes collected by either the federal government or by state and local governments.”