Category Archives: Public/Private.Partnerships

New opposition to P3s may put Texas in a traffic jam

Source: Richard Williamson, Bond Buyer, May 15, 2017 (Subscription Required)
 
Once a champion of public-private partnerships, Texas has turned against the most common form – tolled highways – amid increasingly organized resistance. With the defeat of House Bill 2861 on May 5, Texas lawmakers slammed the door on 18 major toll projects valued in the billions of dollars. The bill was designed to speed funding for redevelopment of major thoroughfares in the state’s largest metro areas by tapping private investment. Proponents promised to deliver projects in a decade rather than decades.  Conservative politicians in the early 2000s led by former Gov. Rick Perry promoted toll roads as a palatable alternative to raising fuel taxes for funding new highways and lanes and as a way to accelerate the state’s economy. …

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Trump’s Public-Private Infrastructure Vision Rejected in Texas
Source: Mark Niquette, Bloomberg, May 9, 2017
 
President Donald Trump’s plan to invest $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure with the help of public-private partnerships has hit a speed bump in Texas. Wary of public opposition to new highway tolls, the Texas House voted on May 5 to reject a bill that would have allowed the partnerships, known as P3s, to participate in 18 highway projects costing as much as $30 billion. The defeat leaves the second most-populous U.S. state unable to tap into the partnerships to finance the infrastructure improvements, even as Trump is proposing to expand their use. …

… The bill’s failure underscores the difficulty Trump faces in his bid to use private investment to reach $1 trillion in funding to rebuild roads, bridges, airports, veterans’ hospitals and other facilities. While P3 deals take different forms, they generally involve private investors accepting risk and responsibility for design, construction and operation of a project in return for a revenue stream made up of tolls, user fees or regular tax outlays known as “availability payments.” … Texas previously had broad authority for such partnerships, and some state entities can still use them for such work as building dormitories at universities. But in 2007, the state Legislature voted to restrict P3’s use for transportation-related projects and require that each new proposal for one be authorized. …

Missouri lawmakers send ban on project labor agreements to Greitens

Source: Celeste Bott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 27, 2017

Missouri’s cities and counties could lose state funding if they force nonunion contractors to pay workers union wages for public projects, under a measure now headed to Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk.  Current law allows both union and nonunion contractors to bid on public construction projects. But under a project labor agreement, local governments can require nonunion contractors to pay union wages, something Missouri Republicans call an unfair practice that discourages competition.  The legislation also would ban local governments from giving preferential treatment to union contractors. Governments that violate those provisions would lose state funding and tax credits for two years.  Greitens, a Republican, has listed the elimination of the agreements, or PLAs, among his labor reform priorities, which he says will persuade more businesses to set up shop in Missouri. …

Gov. Scott Walker signs laws on unions, cannabis oil

Source: Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, April 17, 2017
 
Contractors won’t have to work with unions on taxpayer-funded building projects and parents will have an easier time getting an anti-seizure drug derived from marijuana, under legislation Gov. Scott Walker signed Monday.  The measure on labor agreements, which passed the Legislature on party-line votes, is the latest in a series of moves to roll back union power by Republican lawmakers in recent years. Walker signed the law at Amerilux International, a De Pere distributor of construction materials. …

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Walker to Sign Bill on Local Governments’ Labor Agreements
Source: Associated Press, April 14, 2017
 
Gov. Scott Walker will sign a bill Monday that blocks local governments from requiring collective bargaining agreements on public projects. … The Republican-controlled Legislature easily passed the legislation this session despite opposition from Democrats, who called it another attack on unions. …

Canadian town picks Uber for public transit

Source: Stephen Shankland, CNET, April 4, 2017

… Innisfil, population 32,727 as of 2014, concluded in a March council meeting that subsidizing the car-hailing service was a better deal than paying for a bus line. The city plans to pay 100,000 Canadian dollars (about $75,000) for a first stage of the program and CA$125,000 for a second round about 6 to 9 months in. That compares to CA$270,000 annually for one bus and CA$610,000 for two, the town said. The town evaluated on-demand transit proposals as an alternative to buses. … Innisfil will subsidize Uber trips so citizens pay between CA$3 and CA$5 themselves, depending on the destination, the town said. …

Maui Hospital Transition May Proceed; Injunction Dissolved

Source: Joe Kent, The Maui News, January 21, 2018
 
One of the biggest savings will likely come from control over labor costs. Previously, the hospitals were left out of negotiations with their union employees; instead, such talks were handled at the state level. Now the Maui Health System can, for the first time, negotiate directly with the United Public Workers and Hawaii Government Employees Association unions. This is expected to result in better use of the hospital staffs and a big cost savings. …

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Souki: Hospital subsidies will return to budget
Source: Colleen Uechi, Maui News, March 29, 2017

State lawmakers said Tuesday that funds for the future operation of three Maui County hospitals under Kaiser Permanente likely will be returned to the budget, after the House Finance Committee removed it earlier this month, concerning hospital officials. House Speaker Joe Souki of Maui said Tuesday that “there’s a general agreement between both sides” that funding for the hospitals would be restored in conference budget talks. … But the transition stalled due to a United Public Workers lawsuit claiming that the public-private partnership impaired a contract between the state and the union. By the time both parties had reached a settlement, Kaiser and the state had decided to push the transition date to July 1 of this year.

Interim HHSC Maui Region chief named
Source: Maui News, September 24, 2016

Longtime Maui Memorial Medical Center Dr. Barry Shitamoto has been selected as interim chief executive officer of Hawaii Health Systems Corp.’s Maui Region, effective Nov. 1, according to an announcement. Shitamoto will replace Wesley Lo, current Maui Region chief executive office, who announced earlier this month that he would leave Oct. 31 to take over as chief executive officer at Hale Makua Health Services. … Last year, lawmakers passed a measure to privatize Maui Region hospitals. And, in January, the governor signed a deal to transfer hospital operations to Kaiser Permanente. The transfer was supposed to take effect July 1, but it has been blocked by hospital worker unions. Kaiser has said it plans to take over hospital operations July 1, a year later than the original transfer date. The current changeover date is a day after the expiration of labor contracts with the United Public Workers union and Hawaii Government Employees Association. The UPW has 536 blue-collar employees at Maui Region hospitals, and the HGEA represents 900 white-collar employees, including nurses and supervisors. …

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Boyertown considering privatization of services

Source: Holly Herman, Reading Eagle, March 19, 2017

Following a nationwide trend, Boyertown officials are considering a proposal that would privatize water and sewer services. Borough officials have met with Aqua Pennsylvania, which provides service to 1.4 million customers in Pennsylvania. Council President Frank J. Deery said the company has inquired about purchasing the town’s water and sewer facilities. … “We are listening to what they have to offer,” Deery said. “It’s too early to say what will happen. We are in the study stages. We are a long way from anything happening.” … Nationally, with aging water and sewer systems in need of maintenance and repair, there’s been a rise in municipalities entering public-private partnerships for all or part of their water supply systems. Currently there are more than 2,000 community water and wastewater facilities across the country being served by these partnerships, according to the National Association of Water Companies. … Loder said the next step would be to determine if the borough wants to sell the two facilities. The borough’s public utilities committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the proposal. Loder said the committee will decide whether to recommend that Council hire an appraiser to determine the price of the facilities.

Rauner wants vote on new Stevenson toll lanes, Madigan quickly pushes back

Source: Kim Geiger, Chicago Tribune, March 27, 2017

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday tried to jump-start his plan to allow private companies to build toll lanes along portions of the Stevenson Expressway, saying Democratic leaders in the General Assembly are blocking the project. Just before the governor began speaking, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan pushed back against the proposed project, accusing Rauner of being out to help his “wealthy friends.” … The public-private partnership requires an OK from the General Assembly. State lawmakers have held hearings on the idea, but they haven’t voted on it. … The proposal would allow private companies to build toll lanes along congested portions of the Stevenson Expressway and then collect a portion of the revenue from the drivers that use them. …

… The toll lane project is one of a series of privatization proposals that Rauner has floated during his time in office, only to have the ideas blocked or slowed down by Democrats. Rauner also wants to sell the James R. Thompson Center, the massive, worn Loop office building that’s owned by the state. And he wanted to create a private foundation that would raise money on behalf of the Illinois State Fair. Rauner formed the foundation on his own last year after legislation approving the idea stalled in the General Assembly. Last week, Rauner’s administration moved to lay off 124 prison nurses, with plans to replace them with contract nurses. Privatization of state jobs has also been a key stumbling block in Rauner’s contract standoff with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, with the governor insisting on provisions that would make it easier to outsource work to the private sector. Rauner’s privatization push could become a theme of the 2018 campaign as Democrats try to cast the wealthy businessman Rauner as out of touch with the needs of average voters. Democrat Chris Kennedy didn’t miss a chance to seize on it Monday as he appeared at a gubernatorial candidate forum hosted by the Cook County Democratic Party. …

The Perils of P3s

Source: Gabrielle Gurley, American Prospect, March 24, 2017

The next big thing in American infrastructure investment is public-private partnerships. Although private companies have long played a key role in designing and constructing public projects, federal and state officials increasingly view the private sector as the dollars-and-cents answer to digging out of the rubble of failing highways, bridges, and transit. Both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan tout them as one way to reduce the use of public monies in their as-yet-to-be-detailed infrastructure dreamscapes. Public-private partnerships may indeed provide the dollars that fearful politicians are unable to pry from the pockets of their tax-averse constituents. But P3s, as they are known in the infrastructure sector, are more complex than they appear to people who just want to get where they’re going. In a new Economic Policy Institute report, “No Free Bridge,” researcher Hunter Blair shows just why these partnerships are far from a “eureka” moment for America’s infrastructure woes. … P3s do not end up saving taxpayers money, especially when policymakers obscure the true costs and the risks. Those costs often end up being imposed on future taxpayers and rate-payers, while the gains go to the private partner.

… Under a P3…the private company gets a percentage of a revenue stream, such as a toll or payments based on performance incentives, such as keeping a road well-maintained. According to the EPI report, private-sector officials can suss out underperforming revenue streams before their public-sector counterparts and often renegotiate contracts: 40 percent of public-private partnership have undergone renegotiation after the contract is signed. (Sometimes, these missteps are more than just bureaucratic blunders. The politicians behind them are often close allies or financial beneficiaries of a project’s private promoters.) The United States is a relative newcomer to this brand of public-private partnership, which means that many state and local transportation officials, political leaders, and community groups don’t understand or seriously underestimate the policy challenges or the serious financial and political consequences of a P3 gone bad. … Blair says that the federal government should take the lead in amassing the expertise for structuring public-private partnership contracts that would help both the federal government and state and local governments. … But a small office providing advice on public-private partnerships and finance programs is likely not a priority, even for a president who made a pledge to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure and bring P3s into the finance mix: President Trump cut the Transportation Department budget by 13 percent and a detailed infrastructure plan is no closer to seeing the light of day. …

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AMR’s D.C. Crews Vote to Form Local Union

Source: EMS World, March 24, 2017

Nearly 200 EMS professionals at American Medical Response (AMR) have voted to form a local union with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 20.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducted the union election on Tuesday and Thursday. The NLRB counted ballots Thursday evening with more than 70% voting in favor of unionizing. EMTs and paramedics at AMR transport patients to and from facilities across the metro area and provide backup 9-1-1 medical response in coordination with the DC Fire Department. The private EMS provider signed a contract with the district in 2017. Workers formed a union to address ongoing issues that impact patient care, such as scheduling, fatigue, training, equipment and employee turnover. …

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D.C. private ambulance drivers consider unionizing
Source: Sam Ford, WJLA, March 21, 2017
 
In the year since the American Medical Response private ambulances came on, the number of horror stories around D.C. ambulance care have mostly gone away. But workers are voting Tuesday and Thursday on whether to have the AFSCME, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, union represent them. Since march of last year, AMR’s private ambulances take the low priority patients in D.C. freeing up the city’s ambulance for the more serious cases. But some of the EMTs and paramedics of AMR are saying they are pushing for a union, hoping for better equipment, better training and scheduling. … D.C. currently spends $12 million a year with AMR.

EMTs for DC contractor say personal vehicles being broken into while they respond to 911 calls
Source: Tisha Lewis, FOX5, February 9, 2017

[Ed. Note: AFSCME is currently organizing these workers]

Several first responders for a city medical transportation contractor said thieves are breaking into their cars while they are responding to emergency calls across the District.  Ambulances for American Medical Response are dispatched to several hospitals around Washington D.C. But their employees said a parking problem at work is making their cars targets to theft.  Paramedic Kyle Seymour said his employers refuses to move the ambulances in their parking lot to give workers a place to park in. …

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Private financing wrong direction for Canadian infrastructure bank

Source: CUPE, March 20, 2017

A new report written by CUPE economist Toby Sanger warns that private financing of the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank could double the cost of infrastructure projects, and shows how the bank can instead provide low-cost, public financing for much-needed projects. The study was published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in advance of the federal budget, where more details of the proposed bank are expected to be unveiled. Sanger outlines the dramatic shift from Liberal election promises of a bank with low-cost financing to the current plan, which focuses on higher-priced private borrowing. The shift will increase pressure to privatize key infrastructure, and will mean less public funding is available to deliver public services and infrastructure. … The study outlines how the federal government could establish a Canadian infrastructure bank that works in the public interest by providing low-cost financing for public infrastructure.

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