Let’s see if we can get this straight. The State of Nevada, according to David McGrath Schwartz’s article in the LV Sun today, wants to create toll lanes in Las Vegas “without taxpayers footing the bill,” and the project would require taking miles of existing lanes on U.S. 95 and I-15 and handing them over to a private company. In a perfectly classic example of corporate welfare, our Transportation Director says, “Martinovich defended the proposal, saying it will provide desperately needed funding for transportation without a tax hike and benefit the public by providing motorists and transit riders with more options.” [LV Sun] Please count this as one (of the few) times this writer will agree with State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-LV): “Roads paid for by the taxpayer need to be left for the taxpayer,” said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. “If we paid for the road, a private developer can’t come in and feed at the trough and charge people to ride on it.” (emphasis added)
We may rarely see an example of the privatization phenomena as clearly defined as in this attempt at a road grab. The taxpayers forked over for the construction of I-15 and U.S. 95 in the first place. The roads becoming “assets” owned by the state and its citizens. However, by the lights of the “No Tax” folks there is nothing wrong with creating a situation in which by decreasing or diminishing the revenues available for public projects a crisis is created wherein they are altogether all too happy to step in with their alternative to the bogeyman of increased taxation – privatization. You (the taxpaying public) hand over your assets, we’ll use them, and then perhaps we’ll share some of the proceeds – after, of course, we’ve taken our cut off the top. As noted: “The transfer of existing lanes from public to private hands hasn’t been the only concern. Legislators and some road advocates note that such public-private partnerships have resulted in long-term agreements that left taxpayers holding the bag while private companies charged huge tolls and profited handsomely.” [LV Sun]
And, there we have it. We pay for the assets, be they schools, road, or bridges, and then when the No New Tax People have sounded their clarion calls for reducing the “burden of taxation” on the “average person,” the No New Tax People put forth their alternative – one in which the taxpayers are taken to the cleaners twice over. We (those average taxpaying people) paid for the project, paid to maintain the project, until the Great Crisis after which we are to smile nicely as the privatization crowd moves in and gets those assets all while asking us to continue to pay to use them.
Imagine how shocked the privatizers would be if we looked at their corporate headquarters building and said, “Look, we know it takes money away from your bottom line to maintain, repair, and expand your building. We see that you’re spending big money on your elevators, so here’s our suggestion. Don’t worry about those lifts, we’ll take them over in exchange for an agreement in which we get office space in the top four floors and charge tolls for using the elevators. The office space will be the “incentive” we need to support you, and if there’s money from the elevator tolls left over after our expenses are paid we will share that with you. People in your building will have a choice – the stairs or the elevators; you won’t have to spend money on the elevators; and, we will consider this a public-private project!
Would we really think any of the privatizers would take this suggestion seriously? No. But they are all ever so pleased with the prospect of taking over public assets like school buildings, roads and bridges. Heaven forbid we the average Nevada taxpayers might consider taking over any of their corporate assets – that would be one of those Unmentionable Isms.