States prepare for fire sales

Best. Economy. Ever. The world is so jealous of the American way which is why they hate us.

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering putting the Massachusetts Turnpike in private hands. That could bring in upfront money to help with a $1.4 billion deficit, while also saving on highway operating costs.

In New York, Democratic Gov. David Paterson appointed a commission to look into leasing state assets, including the Tappan Zee Bridge north of New York City, the lottery, golf courses, toll roads, parks and beaches. Recommendations are expected next month.

Such projects could be attractive to private investors and public pension funds looking for safe places to put their money in this scary economy, said Leonard Gilroy, a privatization expert with the market-oriented Reason Foundation in Los Angeles.

“Infrastructure is more attractive today than ever,” Gilroy said. “It’s tangible. It’s a road. It’s water. It’s an airport. It’s something that is — you know, you hear the term recession-proof.”

Unions don’t like privatization deals out of fear that worker wages and benefits will be squeezed as private operators try to boost their profit by streamlining services.

Taxpayers, too, can lose out if the arrangements don’t work — and sometimes even if they do, said Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pa. Higher tolls on privatized roads can push drivers onto state-operated roads, wearing them down faster and raising public costs over time.

“You’re privatizing some profits in this process and socializing some losses,” Price said.

Selling or leasing public assets can produce an immediate infusion of cash for the state, while foisting the tough decisions, such as raising tolls, onto private operators instead of the politicians.

Gee, privatizing profits and socializing losses. Now where have we witnessed that before? Let’s just give out bonuses to the executives while we’re at it and call it a day.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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