News from the Conservative Legislation Lab

[Content Note: Class warfare.]

As I've said many times before, if you want to know what garbage policies are coming down the conservative pipeline, look no further than Indiana, where we are used as guinea pigs to test out the latest and greatest in Republican governance theory.

This time, however, I'm not bringing you news of what's to come, but instead a follow-up on how one of these cool theories panned out for us.

As you may recall, our former Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, who is a genius, decided to privatize the toll road in Northwest Indiana, which connects us to Chicago. This was a bad idea, despite the fact Daniels routinely touted it as a huge success.

(In fact, many of Daniels' cutting-edge conservative policies were loudly touted as successes—by Daniels, by other members of his party, and by prominent members of the media—in spite of their having proven to be abject failures for Hoosiers.)

This is what Daniels' huge toll road privatization success looks like now: On Sunday, the company that operates the Indiana Toll Road, ITR Commission Co., a venture of the Spanish-Australian company Cintra-Macquarie, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The General Assembly narrowly voted for the lease, allowing then-Gov. Mitch Daniels to sign a contract with the company in 2006 to exchange a lump-sum payment of $3.8 billion for a 75-year lease of the road that runs between the Illinois and Ohio state lines.

But the toll revenue failed to meet the company's expectations, as traffic volume fell short of predictions.

Indiana Finance Authority Director Kendra York said in a statement ITR Commission Co. will continue to manage the Toll Road through the bankruptcy process. The Finance Authority must also approve any potential sale of the lease.

...Back in 2006, Daniels touted the deal as a win for Indiana, comparing the lease to selling Manhattan for beads.

He said Indiana gets to pocket $3.8 billion, but could take back the Toll Road if the operator failed to meet demands.
In fact, what Daniels said at the time was that the privatization plan would "trigger tremendous job growth using in large part a very handy tool: Other people's money." Ho ho ho. Because Northwest Indiana, which is part of suburban Chicago, is treated as if we are not part of the state of Indiana, but instead an ATM from which to draw funds to spend in the rest of the (more politically conservative) state.

Daniels absurdly claimed that "the increased tolls on the road would be mostly paid for by out-of-state motorists," even though the road is mostly used by people who drive to and from Chicago every day for work, because, once the mills collapsed, Hoosiers in NWI were left with precious few local jobs offering a livable wage.

We protested the privatization of the toll road. And we were ignored. And we started paying three times the tolls, at shitty automated booths from which operators were fired, on an increasingly poorly maintained road, while our governor went around declaring the scheme a success.

Now, we've no idea what's to come.
"This is a valuable asset that was really, really sold off at a discount when you consider the value the Toll Road could have had by gradually raising tolls," Shaw Friedman, an attorney in LaPorte County, said. "The problem is the $3.8 billion was gone in the first six or seven years. What do we do with the remaining 70 years?"

Politicians who opposed the lease in 2006 spoke out Monday.

"This is our worst fear come to fruition," said state Sen. John Broden, who voted against the lease.

..."A new investor will come in to make money, and how they make money is doing business as inexpensively as they can," [State Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend] said.

Joe Bock, who is running against [Republican U.S. Representative from Indiana's 2nd district Jackie Walorski], held a news conference Monday afternoon, and warned against the privatization of public assets.

Development of infrastructure is the "fundamental role of government," Bock said. "The idea to turn that over to a private consortium is one that ought to be questioned."
Yes, yes privatization ought to be questioned. And it ought to be deemed a colossal failure. And yet Republicans in the state are still continuing to defend it.

Walorski's deputy campaign manager made a statement yesterday that the Congresswoman stands by the lease and the decision to privatize, incredibly insisting that "the toll road will continue to operate normally, tolls will not increase, and drivers will not be impacted," and breathtakingly asserting it's "important to remember the state of Indiana specifically provided many safeguards into the lease to protect the interest of Hoosier taxpayers," even though it's Hoosier taxpayers who have been paying the increased tolls and repairs to cars damaged by a road in a state of disrepair through several horrendous winters.

Everything about this idea was a catastrophic failure. And these assholes are still trying to claim it's a success.

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