Tag Archives: Toll Road

Wanting Indiana’s Cake After Eating It

I have a great idea. I’m going to sell my house, but demand that the State continue to give me my homeowner’s tax credit.  Think “our man Mitch” would approve?

I don’t either.

But how is that any different from his complaint about the distribution of federal highway funds?

Highway funds are allocated to the states on the basis of a formula that includes the miles of road the state must maintain. As I understand it, the feds are taking the eminently reasonable position that since Indiana contracted away its responsibility to maintain the Toll Road, the Toll Road mileage should be subtracted from the mileage used in the formula. That will cost the state some $40 million this year, and our governor is incensed at the unfairness of it all.

I think we can guess what his position would be if he were still budget director; he’d not only support the new calculation, he’d probably be demanding a refund for the years since the Toll Road was leased. (Apparently, the feds aren’t trying to penalize Indiana for their delay in adjusting the formula. He should be grateful for small favors!)

Indiana got a big windfall when we “leased” (essentially, sold) a state asset, just as I would get a big cash payout for my equity if I sold my house. When the Toll Road lease was negotiated, the state made a big deal of the fact that the vendor would be responsible for maintaining that asset. If I sold my house, I would also be relieved of the need to fix the roof, keep the plumbing in repair, cut the grass…all those expenses attendant to homeownership.

The only difference is, I would be ashamed to whine about losing a tax credit to which I would no longer be entitled.

Demanding federal highway funds to maintain a road someone else is legally obligated to maintain takes real chutzpah.

Selling Indiana: Update

This past weekend, the LA Times and the Northwest Indiana Times both had stories about Mitch Daniel’s privatization initiatives.

The Northwest Indiana article reported on the impending default of the private operator of the Indiana Toll Road. While a default would probably not cost Indiana taxpayers–the private operator paid us in advance–it might well cost us what little control we retained over the Toll Road, and depending upon how the default played out, might require some legal fees.

The LA Times article, on the other hand, was the sort of in-depth reporting that has become all too rare nationally, and virtually non-existent here in Indianapolis.  It traced the disaster that was Indiana’s effort to contract out welfare intake, and it is well worth reading in its entirety. High points include a description of ACS ties to Indiana political figures and “movers and shakers”–especially Stephen Goldsmith, Mitch Roob and the Barnes Thornburgh law firm–together with a list of associated campaign contributions, and several examples of the harm done to vulnerable elderly and disabled people who depended on the program.

The Star did do several stories early on, when the failures of IBM and ACS were at their most glaring, and again when Daniels admitted defeat and pulled IBM’s (but not ACS’) contract. And it ran a story when IBM sued the state. But there was no effort to “connect the dots” and nothing even close to the comprehensive investigation provided by the LA Times.

That lack of a full picture matters, because without it, reporters fail to recognize the context within which we must understand related information.

A couple of weeks ago, the Daniels Administration announced that it had received an award from the federal government for cutting the food stamp program’s negative error rate–how often cases are incorrectly closed or denied. The Administration bragged that Indiana’s error rate was below the national average.  The Star dutifully reported the (accurate) claim. What didn’t get reported was the fact that from 2001 to 2007–prior to welfare privatization–Indiana’s error rate had also been below the national average, but in 2008, one year after IBM and ACS took over, the error rate had more than doubled, to 13%.  It was the largest increase in the country, and the celebrated “improvement” was measured from that high point.

Context matters. So does journalism.