Saturday, November 04, 2006

Former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt (D) Missouri- now a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs, pushes Perry's TTC

Dick Gephardt: Public-private links can be beneficial


Dick Gephardt
Special to the San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

Once again, we are in the midst of an election season. While there are plenty of issues sparking spirited debate along partisan lines, there are others, such as the Trans-Texas Corridor, that should be acknowledged for their potential to unite us.

Government partnerships with private companies are positive tools that state governments can use to address public needs within strained budgets, while creating tens of thousands of jobs for skilled workers.

Joining private resources and expertise with tangible public oversight and vision is not the same as selling off the responsibilities of government to the highest bidder. The private sector often is capable of delivery of services in ways that the government is not — to the benefit of the public good.

The transportation public-private partnerships taking shape in Texas today reflect a progressive and democratic tradition of pragmatic public works that have served working people well and driven the state's prosperity. These partnerships make political sense for both Republicans and Democrats because good public policy serves every constituent who drives on our roads, every worker who builds and maintains them and every community whose local economy is strengthened by opportunity through improved access.

Significant American success in building and running toll roads through private partnerships attests to this. Under the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, for example, the lease of the Chicago Skyway for almost $2 billion allowed the city to pay off its debts, create a sizable reserve fund and pay for neighborhood improvement projects and social programs.

As seen in Virginia and in proposed projects in Ohio and elsewhere, this innovative approach is being employed by public officials — Democrats and Republicans alike — who are charged with the fiduciary responsibility of managing state budgets while meeting the growing needs of citizens and businesses. Public-private partnerships are a means of solving problems that otherwise would be ignored.

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels faced a $3 billion shortfall in road building funds. The public-private partnership he developed for the Indiana Toll Road allowed him to resolve the pending transportation crisis without a gas tax increase and still maintain control of a vital state asset.

In each case, private partners have brought to the table significant funding and expertise without the need for the public to carry a debt, have created thousands of jobs for the building trades and have improved the infrastructure of the local community — all essential to maintaining a strong economy.

In a time when some industries are sending American dollars and jobs overseas, the Trans-Texas Corridor project achieves just the opposite — it attracts billions of foreign dollars to the state and creates thousands of jobs right here at home. It is, in a sense, reverse outsourcing. This "insourcing" creates a means by which the state can build and improve roads that would not — and in some cases could not — otherwise be built or improved without new debt for the state and new gas taxes for drivers.

Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature are moving ahead with the nation's most aggressive program of new projects that rely on private investment.

Successful public-private partnerships for transportation demonstrate to the domestic and global business communities that Texas is committed to working with the private sector and improving its infrastructure. These partnerships also demonstrate to our citizens responsible stewardship of state resources, and they create local and regional economic opportunities.

Such public policy successes should be a force uniting us as citizens, not dividing us as partisans.

Dick Gephardt is former minority leader of the U.S. House and a consultant to companies interested in partnering with government.

Also in TTC News Archives: Dick Gephardt lobbys for private toll roads in California: CLICK HERE

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