N.J. Lottery Sales Fall Short Following Privatization

Source: SNJ Today, April 18, 2017

Those hoping to win big in the New Jersey State lottery are spending less on their dreams.  State lottery sales are down for the third year since being privatized.  Lottery operations management firm Northstar New Jersey promised a return of more than $1.4 billion over 15 years when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie moved the games to privatization in 2013.  Since then, Northstar has missed its income projections and spent $20 million in allowance funds to cover financial shortfalls. …

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Privatizing lottery isn’t lucrative deal for New Jersey
Source: Michael Catalini, Associated Press, January 9, 2016

New Jersey might get $1 billion less out of its state lottery as part of an amended 15-year deal with the private company that runs part of it, according to an Associated Press analysis. The deal, unveiled by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration on New Year’s Eve, also reduces the amount the company must generate to avoid penalties. The revenue targets that Northstar New Jersey has to meet have been lowered by about $76 million per year over the contract, which was struck in 2013. The total revenue projection was decreased from nearly $16 billion to about $15 billion. … The underperformance — including a $5 million drop in revenue in 2015 — has raised questions from Democrats about the privatization strategy championed by Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who promoted lottery outsourcing as a way to shrink the government’s payroll and bring in more cash. The lottery brought in $960 million in fiscal year 2015, down from initial expectations of a little more than $1 billion.

New Jersey Having Second Thoughts After Privatizing Lottery
Source: John Reitmeyer, NBC Philadelphia, October 8, 2015
Two years after New Jersey turned over some state lottery functions to a private venture under a controversial long-term deal, lawmakers are questioning why revenues have not met expectations and whether the privatization contract is worth it. The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee announced yesterday that it will hold a hearing on October 19 to review New Jersey’s deal with Northstar New Jersey to address concerns raised in recent weeks about fees Northstar is collecting even as it has failed to meet net-revenue targets. An Assembly committee is also scheduling a hearing on the deal. … Gordon, the Senate committee chairman, said the hearing on October 19 will also review the broader privatization issue, and whether the state is up to the task of monitoring such large contracts. He cited problems the state has had with private companies handling some of the recovery efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 as another reason to broaden the scope of the hearing.

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State lawmaker’s plan for replacing Green Bay prison

Source: Aisha Morales, WBAY, April 17, 2017
 
Shutting down the Green Bay Correctional Institution and building a new one nearby is not a new conversation. But this week state Rep. David Steffen (R-Howard) says he’ll introduce his bill to the Legislature to turn the current facility into something that can make Brown County actual revenue. His remedy is to decommission the prison facility in Allouez and turn it into residential or retail space or a mix of the two, and have a new prison privately built in Brown County. … Although a location for a new prison has yet to be determined, Steffen wants it to be privately built and owned. The state would lease the space, and it would be run by state employees. …

Trump’s federal job cuts could lead to more spending

Source: Timothy Noah, Politico, April 13, 2017

Since 1962, total federal spending has increased from about $600 billion to about $4 trillion. How did that happen without ballooning the size of the federal workforce? By ballooning the size of the private-sector workforce to which the federal government contracted out the work. Today more than half the Pentagon budget goes immediately out the door to federal contractors. … But if the Trump administration proceeds with its planned cuts in the federal workforce, at least some of the work could be assigned to contract employees instead. That would likely increase rather than reduce costs associated with the programs being managed. …

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Warner fights to protect federal workers
Source: Augusta Free Press, February 11, 2017

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined 14 Senate colleagues to unveil the “Five Fights for Federal Employees,” a proposal to protect current and retired government workers from ideologically motivated attacks. … The Senators introduced a resolution with a statement of principles that the Senators intend to use to fight back against recent attacks on the federal workforce. These principles include a commitment to defend fair pay and earned benefits, oppose the erosion of essential protections that ensure the professionalism and independence of the civil service, and prevent the outsourcing of essential government functions to private contractors. A number of prominent labor unions and organizations supported the proposal, including the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE), National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), National Weather Service Employee Organization (NWSEO), and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). …

Trump’s Hiring Freeze Disrespects American Taxpayers
Source: Donald Cohen, Capital & Main, February 6, 2017

… The White House said the order was signed to “respect the American taxpayer,” but the last time a president froze hiring government-wide it cost taxpayers. Ronald Reagan’s 1981 hiring freeze led to more contracting with private corporations, which often costs the government more. In fact, government isn’t smaller now, it’s just outsourced. It’s been estimated that three quarters of workers that serve the American public actually work for contractors. John J. Dilulio Jr., the first director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush, says the path to “smaller government” is actually hiring one million more federal employees. Even businesses wouldn’t freeze hiring—they’d figure out what needs to be done and hire the staff needed to do it well. … Blaming government—and public employees—for society’s problems has weakened democratic control over public goods and services, and helped expand corporate power through privatization. ….

Trump’s federal hiring freeze will cost taxpayers and hurt Americans, Fed unions say
Source: Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, January 24, 2017

Donald Trump is backtracking on campaign pledges to create American jobs and cut wasteful government spending by issuing an executive order to freeze federal employee hiring across the country, which will result in more work being outsourced to more expensive contractors, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said Monday. “President Trump’s action will disrupt government programs and services that benefit everyone and actually increase taxpayer costs by forcing agencies to hire more expensive contractors to do work that civilian government employees are already doing for far less,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “We’re disappointed but not surprised by President Trump’s attack on federal workers,” said AFSCME Council 26 Executive Director Carl Goldman. AFSCME said the freeze will make federal agencies less effective, hurting people and communities that depend on efficient public services. “You can’t make America great by undermining those who’ve dedicated their careers to serving America,” said AFSCME president Lee Saunders.

In Step Towards Privatization, Trump Enacts Federal Hiring Freeze
Source: Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams, January 23, 2017

One of the new president’s first orders of business on Monday was to sign an executive order establishing a federal hiring freeze, which the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) warns will impact workers and communities across the nation, as more than 85 percent of federal employees live and work outside the nation’s capital. … In effect, it’s a step towards privatizing the federal government. “Numerous studies have shown that contractors are two to three times more costly than each federal employee they replace,” Cox said. “President Trump’s federal hiring freeze will result in more government waste as agencies are forced to hire high-priced contractors to do the work that federal employees can and should be doing.” “All Americans,” Cox said, “should be outraged that President Trump is gutting federal programs and funneling their taxpayer dollars into the hands of less-regulated private companies who answer to their corporate shareholders and not the American people.”

Trump’s Davis-Bacon Quote Turns Construction Industry Heads

Source: Elliot T Dube, Bloomberg BNA, April 14, 2017
 
Construction industry stakeholders got a jolt when President Donald Trump recently approached what a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official called a “third rail issue” for building trades unions: changes to the Davis-Bacon Act. Trump said in a New York Times interview published April 5 that he was “going to make an announcement in two weeks” regarding Davis-Bacon. The law requires contractors on federally funded construction projects to pay prevailing wages for a given area. …

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Trump’s promised announcement on labor law unnerves unions
Source: Lindsay Wise, McClatchy, April 10, 2017
 
President Donald Trump shocked organized labor by saying he would soon have an announcement to make about a law that guarantees wage levels for workers on most federally funded construction projects. And since then, the White House has declined to reveal his position publicly.  But behind closed doors, the Trump team appears to be scrambling in recent days to calm nerves among the very unions whose workers helped power the president’s Election Day victory. After a meeting with White House staff on Monday, Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, said he was confident the president was misquoted or misspoke when he told The New York Times he would make an announcement about the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. … Signed by President Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, the Davis-Bacon Act requires contractors hired by the federal government for public works and building projects to pay certain classes of laborers and mechanics at prevailing wage rates. The Department of Labor calculates the rates by county, based on data it collects on similar projects in the area. Conservatives in Trump’s own Republican Party would be delighted if the president announced plans to repeal or replace the law. They say it artificially drives up costs for taxpayers and gives a competitive advantage to unions. Unions are anxious to protect Davis-Bacon, and ensure its wage protections are enshrined in Trump’s promised trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. Any move by the president that threatens the law could jeopardize their support for a Trump infrastructure bill, and thwart its prospects for winning votes from congressional Democrats, the unions’ traditional allies. …

Trump Says He May Use His $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan as a Political Incentive
Source: Reuters, April 5, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was considering packaging a $1 trillion infrastructure plan with either health care or tax reform legislation as an incentive to get support from lawmakers, especially Democrats. Trump also said in an interview with the New York Times he may move up the unveiling of a plan to rebuild the country’s deteriorating roads, bridges and tunnels, which had been expected later this year. … Some of the infrastructure projects may be built through public-private partnerships, Trump said, declining to say how the total spending would split between public and private sources. But he also said that with interest rates low, the government may be better off financing the projects itself. … Trump said he would make an announcement in two weeks about whether he would seek changes to a wage law for federal projects blamed by conservative groups for inflating costs, though he declined to say what the announcement would be. Conservative groups have pressured the White House on the law, known as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires contractors on federal projects to pay local prevailing wages – a measure backed by labor unions and Democrats. …

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Obama’s Sick Leave Order Survives Under Trump, for Now

Source: Ben Penn, Bloomberg BNA, April 17, 2017

An Obama executive order mandating sick leave for federal contractor employees, once considered primed for reversal by the Trump administration, may be here to stay. The order requiring federal contractors to provide paid sick leave went into effect more than three months ago. The new conventional wisdom is that the paid leave mandate may no longer be a priority target for repeal and just might endure even after top Labor Department personnel are confirmed. … Trump administration officials discussed revising or repealing the paid sick leave order and the DOL’s implementing rules during earlier stages of the transition, sources familiar with the talks told Bloomberg BNA. But in recent weeks, the regulation has taken a back seat, as employer advocates and GOP lawmakers turned their attention to repealing the controversial overtime, fiduciary and “blacklisting” rules. …

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Federal contractors tell Obama: Stop picking on us
Source: Lydia Wheeler, The Hill, September 10, 2015

Federal contractors say they are being unfairly targeted as President Obama pushes an agenda that’s focused on raising wages and creating safer workplaces. Since 2009, the President has issued 13 executive orders that have led to 16 regulations applying to companies that do business with the government. … The latest order, signed by the president this week, would require contractors to offer paid sick leave. … Though the PSC backs some of the policies behind the executive orders, including the latest on paid leave, Chvotkin said contractors take issue with record keeping that’s required to prove compliance with the orders. … In a statement to The Hill, Jamal Brown, the White House Office of Management and Budget press secretary, said the federal government only does business with companies that comply with laws that protect workers’ safety, wages and civil rights.

Obama Signs Executive Order On Paid Sick Days
Source: Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, September 7, 2015

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Labor Day requiring that federal contractors provide their employees with paid sick leave, the latest in a string of executive actions aimed at raising the bar in the U.S. workplace.  According to the White House, the order will give roughly 300,000 workers under federal contracts up to seven paid sick days per year. Workers will earn one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked. The rules will start with new federal contracts signed starting in 2017. … Although most U.S. workers do receive paid sick days through their jobs, roughly 39 percent of private-sector workers do not, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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. …

In a bid to ease student debt, California considers a role in helping refinance private loans

Source: Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2017
 
State treasurer and gubernatorial hopeful John Chiang is wading into the increasingly high-profile debate over college affordability with a new push for California to play a role in alleviating the burden of high-interest private student loans.  Chiang is sponsoring legislation that would create a $25-million fund that would offer a degree of protection to student loan providers. With the state assuming some of the risk, the measure’s proponents say financial institutions will be more likely to offer lower interest rates to those carrying student debt. … The proposal, which is being carried in the Legislature by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), is among a swell of measures introduced in the Legislature this year aimed at tackling the high cost of college. Allen and Chiang will unveil the legislation at a Capitol news conference Tuesday. …

Google ‘taken aback’ by inequality accusations, says it’s confident there’s no gender pay gap

Source: Karen Gilchrist, CNBC, April 11, 2017

Google has refuted claims that it systematically underpays female employees by reiterating its gender “blind” approach to remuneration calculations.  In a blogpost on Tuesday by Google’s vice-president of people operations, Eileen Naughton highlighted the technology giant’s commitment to “extremely scientific and robust” annual analyses to help calculate fair salaries. The model, first outlined last year, takes into account role, job level, job location and performance ratings, but is blind to gender – and, as of recently, race.  The comments come days after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) alleges that the company allows “systematic compensation disparities against women”. In a court hearing held Friday, DOL Regional Director Janette Wipper said the agency had received “compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.” …

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Google accused of ‘extreme’ gender pay discrimination by US labor department
Source: Sam Levin, The Guardian, April 7, 2017

Google has discriminated against its female employees, according to the US Department of Labor (DoL), which said it had evidence of “systemic compensation disparities”. As part of an ongoing DoL investigation, the government has collected information that suggests the internet search giant is violating federal employment laws with its salaries for women, agency officials said. … The explosive allegation against one of the largest and most powerful companies in Silicon Valley comes at a time when the male-dominated tech industry is facing increased scrutiny over gender discrimination, pay disparities and sexual harassment. Google is a federal contractor, which means it is required to allow the DoL to inspect and copy records and information about its its compliance with equal opportunity laws. Last year, the department’s office of federal contract compliance programs requested job and salary history for Google employees, along with names and contact information, as part of the compliance review. Google, however, repeatedly refused to hand over the data, which was a violation of its contractual obligations with the federal government, according to the DoL’s lawsuit.

… Google is not the first tech company to face legal action from the labor department over employment practices. In September, the DoL filed a lawsuit against Palantir, the Palo Alto data analytics company, alleging it systematically discriminated against Asian job applicants in its hiring process. … In January, the department sued Oracle, another large tech company, claiming it paid white men more than others, leading to pay discrimination against women and black and Asian employees. … In the Google case, the labor department’s lawyers have asked the court to cancel all of the company’s federal contracts and block any future business with the government if it continues to refuse to comply with the audit. …

Loans ‘Designed to Fail’: States Say Navient Preyed on Students

Source: Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, New York Times, April 9, 2017
 
In recent months, the student loan giant Navient, which was spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014 and retained nearly all of the company’s loan portfolio, has come under fire for aggressive and sloppy loan collection practices, which led to a set of government lawsuits filed in January. But those accusations have overshadowed broader claims, detailed in two state lawsuits filed by the attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, that Sallie Mae engaged in predatory lending, extending billions of dollars in private loans to students like Ms. Hardin that never should have been made in the first place. …

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Navient Lawsuit Shatters GOP Privatization Myth
Source: David Dayen, The American Prospect, January 19, 2017

The Trump era is likely to usher in rapid privatization of public goods and services. … Behind these plans to sell off the public sector lies a philosophy that private enterprise can perform government roles more cheaply and efficiently. Perhaps nothing shatters this myth more than a lawsuit filed Wednesday against Navient, a company that administers payments on student loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and state attorneys general in Illinois and Washington state accuse Navient of “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment,” using “shortcuts and deception” to rip off students. … Navient committed these alleged violations in part while fulfilling a federal contract for work that could indisputably have been performed by the public sector. … According to the complaint, Navient failed to correctly allocate borrower payments across multiple loans, sometimes ringing up late fees and defaults even when the borrower made the payment. The company steered borrowers into forbearance plans (a temporary break from payments) that increased interest due, rather than other repayment options. The CFPB estimates that $4 billion in unnecessary interest charges piled up on borrower accounts from 2010-2015 because of this. … The CFPB added that Navient gave student borrowers incorrect information for how to maintain eligibility for income-based repayment plans, which only take a sliver of a borrowers’ income every month. … But the Navient lawsuit doesn’t just reinforce why we need the CFPB. It shreds the argument for privatization, particularly of functions the government is perfectly capable of doing on its own. We could easily route student loan payments right to Uncle Sam. But instead, we push them through a predatory actor that needs to commit harm to make it worthwhile. …

Niagara County pushes for new county-wide ambulance service

Source: Jenn Schanz, News 4 Reporter, April 3, 2017

Officials in Niagara County want Mercy EMS to provide county-wide ambulance services. The non-profit would replace Twin City and American Medical Response, which are currently providing services to the county. The conflict started in the summer of 2016, when American Medical Response pulled out of the majority of Niagara County. … Kelemen stated response times for rural mental health patients have been so bad so that law enforcement has had to help. … That often deters patients from wanting to call for help again, Kelemen told us. Schultz pointed out it also takes deputies off the street. …

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Town of Niagara ends ambulance roulette, signs with Mercy EMS
Source: Al Vaughters, WIVB, August 11, 2016

Town of Niagara lawmakers met in an emergency session Wednesday, to approve a contract with Mercy EMS for ambulance services, rejecting an offer from the previous ambulance provider to continue its services. Local officials across Western New York have struggling with complaints about the reliability of ambulance services, across the board, which can often be the difference between life and death. Niagara town officials settled on Mercy because they were getting fed up with the AMR/Rural Metro’s lack of commitment, said Town Supervisor Lee Wallace … Rural Metro, and its successor AMR Emergency Medical Services, had been providing ambulance service for years, then last month, AMR gave town officials a 30-day notice they were terminating their contract. … In fact, AMR notified public safety officials they were pulling out of Niagara County altogether, except for the City of Niagara Falls, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. Then when local officials started looking to other ambulance services, an about face by AMR–they would like to stay with the Town of Niagara. Wallace said that was just too much uncertainty, so the town is going with Mercy ambulance service starting Monday, rather than returning to the bargaining table with AMR. …