Indiana newspaper reflects on toll road lease

Editorial from The Indianapolis Star citing Pennsylvania’s consideration of leasing the Turnpike. Here’s the last five paragraphs with some of [OUR COMMENTARY] included:

Indiana’s lease has enabled the state to jump start long-delayed road and bridge projects. It also had an unexpected benefit this year: Standard & Poor’s, citing the state’s improved financial outlook, upgraded Indiana’s credit rating to triple-A, a development that will carry substantial savings for taxpayers. [AS AN FYI, THE TURNPIKE COMMISSION’S CREDIT RATING WAS DOWNGRADED BY TWO COMPANIES, FITCH AND STANDARD & POOR’S.]

As noted, the Pennsylvania deal has run into strong opposition. Rendell calls the proposal a “decided underdog” in the legislature. Similarly, critics in Indiana, especially Democratic partisans, continue to attack the Toll Road lease. [REPUBLICAN PARTISANS ARE ALSO ATTACKING THE LEASE BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO GIVE UP THEIR GRAVY TRAIN OF PTC JOBS AND BOND COUNSEL BENEFITS EITHER. THIS ISN’T A PARTISAN ISSUE, ITS A POWER ISSUE.]

But opponents neither there nor here have been able to credibly explain how to pay for road improvements without benefit of the lease revenue. Leaders in both states long lacked the political will to raise either taxes or tolls to the level necessary to adequately maintain the highways, let alone fund other projects. [NOR SHOULD THEY. TAXES AND TOLLS ON CURRENTLY “FREE” HIGHWAYS ARE NOT THE SOLUTION TO OUR TRANSPORATION PROBLEM. THEY WILL ONLY BE STOP-GAP MEASURES AND WILL SERVE TO EXACERBATE THE PROBLEM, NOT SOLVE IT.]

Indiana’s lease also carried the benefit of an upfront payment. The state not only pocketed $3.8 billion immediately, right away earning substantial interest, but it also was able to start work on road projects earlier than otherwise would have been possible. The accelerated roadwork pays off in reduced construction costs. [THIS COULD BE TRUE IN PA AS WELL. THE KEY IS TO SPEND THIS MONEY PROPERLY, NARROWLY, AND STRATEGICALLY. WE KNOW SOME WILL SAY THAT SIMPLY CAN’T BE DONE IN HARRISBURG. AND WE DON’T DISAGREE. HOWEVER, WHAT OTHER CHOICES DO WE HAVE? THE OPTIONS REGULARLY PROPOSED BY FOLKS USUALLY ON OUR SIDE ARE SIMPLY UNVIABLE OR NOT PART OF ANY SERIOUS DISCUSSION. THE ONLY CHOICE BEFORE US IS MAKING OUR TRANSPORATION FUNDING DEPENDENT ON THE TURNPIKE COMMISSION’S BONDED DEBT OR ON A LEASE OF THE TURNPIKE TO A PRIVATE OPERATOR. PERIOD.]

Two years later, the Toll Road lease continues to look like one of the smarter moves Indiana has made in a long time. So smart, in fact, leaders from other states want to travel the same path. [WE’LL HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE WHETHER WE CAN CHALK UP A “SMARTER MOVE” IN PA OR NOT.]