Durbin Commends Introduction of Bill to Protect Taxpayer Investment in House
Dozens of Illinois and national organizations express support for Durbin effort
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin today commended Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and others for introducing companion legislation to Durbin’s Protecting Taxpayers in Transportation Asset Transfers Act. Both bills aim to protect taxpayer investment and require increased transparency and public involvement before local and state governments can lease or sell major transportation projects such as roads, airports and other facilities.
“The strong support that has been expressed for this bill in such a short amount of time shows that taxpayers are ready to see reasonable protections placed on their investments,” said Durbin.
“As local and state governments struggle to maintain and upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, many are considering public/private partnerships,” said DeFazio. “This legislation protects against fire sales of our existing public assets while making certain the public’s interest is fully protected in future public/private partnership agreements.”
Late yesterday, Durbin received a letter from thirty-six organizations from around the country expressing support for his effort to introduce public protections on the privatization of transportation assets saying: “With so many of our nation’s roads, bridges, transit, rail and other infrastructure in a state of disrepair, America needs major investment in our transportation assets and their operation. Given the increased interest and activity in public-private partnerships (PPPs) for leases, sales and concessions of transportation assets, we the undersigned call in support of Congress to create a set of ground rules.”
DeFazio’s bill is cosponsored by Representatives Andre Carson (D-IN), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Louis Slaughter (D-NY). Both bills would attach a federal lien on all transportation projects that have received federal funding in excess of $25 million or federal funding and have a value over $500 million. This lien will not be released until federal funds are repaid and the parties agree to take action to increase transparency and public input in the privatization transaction.
The bills would require local and state governments to repay federal funds used to build and maintain major transportation assets before selling or leasing them to a private entity. The Department of Transportation (DOT) would be required to establish a formula to ensure the repayment is in line with the reasonable depreciation of the asset. Repaid federal funds would be returned to the Department of Transportation and must be used to help make investments in other transportation projects.
The bills would also increase transparency and encourage public involvement before privatization deals are completed by requiring local sponsors and private operators to agree to several disclosures and transparency measures. For example, local governments will be required to conduct an assessment that demonstrates that private operation/ownership of the asset will provide at least the same public and financial benefit than if the public entity were to remain under government control. Private operators will be required to disclose anticipated changes in workforce, wages and benefits over the life of the lease and estimate an amount of savings these changes represent relative to current operations. Private operators will also be required to keep any privatized transportation asset in a state of good repair.
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