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July 29, 2015

IL: Tax breaks sought for Illiana toll road. In another sign the controversial Illiana Expressway still has a pulse, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is seeking legislative approval of tax breaks that could benefit the on-again, off-again project. . . . The project also has been the subject of a federal court ruling that found the Federal Highway Administration’s approval of the project in 2013 violated U.S. environmental law. . . Howard, Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, was surprised to hear the administration was pursuing the sales tax exemption proposal in light of the federal ruling. “I don’t get it. Why in the world is the Department of Revenue proposing to grant a sales tax exemption for this project?” Learner said. “It’s time for the State of Illinois to stop wasting money on boondoggle projects like the Illiana Expressway.” The Southern Illinosian

WI: Private firm cashes in on public campsites. . . Base camping rates at state parks, which increased on Tuesday, and the cost of vehicle-admission stickers, make camping in those facilities too expensive for him and a lot of his peers, he said. It’s not just those fees that campers must pay to stay in state recreation areas. A reservation fee that is assessed in virtually every transaction involving a state campground reservation also is tacked on to the cost. Most of the revenue generated from that fee goes to a private contractor, which collects more than $1 million every year from residents and tourists, Gannett Wisconsin Media has found. The company, ReserveAmerica, has been paid an estimated $16.4 million since 1999, when it first entered a contract with the state Department of Natural Resources to manage online and phone reservations for state camping sites, according to data released by the DNR. Of the $9.70 reservation fee, the DNR keeps $1 and the rest goes to ReserveAmerica. Marshfield News-Herald

KY: Candidates for governor propose privatizing parks. . . Kentucky’s two major nominees for governor said Tuesday the state should consider privatizing at least some of its public park system as a way to save money to deal with upcoming budget issues. NewsOK.com

FL: Hundreds show up to voice complaints over plan for I-275 toll lanes. . . Speakers from several local community groups organized the town hall meeting to put pressure on the Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organization to stop plans for the Tampa Bay Express project that would widen portions of Interstate 275 with toll lanes. The Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet Aug. 4, and community organizers expect residents to show up in throngs. More than 2,000 people already have signed a petition on stoptbx.com to remove the project from road plans. At Tuesday’s town hall meeting, activists and businesses owners helped answer residents’ questions about the 175-page expansion plan TBO.com

OH: Audit: Dayton charter school board members overpaid themselves. Board members at a Dayton charter school over-paid themselves by a combined $4,350 last year, according to a state audit released today. Dayton Daily News

NJ: Freehold Twp. teachers reject outsourced assistants. The teachers union here is taking a stand against the school district’s move to outsource teacher assistant posts to a local agency, saying the cost-cutting move would diminish learning. Asbury Park Press

NJ: 911 dispatch – the next go-to service for privatization?. Lawrence Township became the first New Jersey municipality to make the move in early 2013. According to Mayor Cathleen Lewis, her town may see cost savings over time, but the main reason for the switch was to get more officers on the street. New Jersey 101.5 FM

OK: Editorial: No privatization: Keep Tulsa Jail under public control. . . Privatization turned out to be a bad deal for taxpayers the first time around — from 1999, when the new jail opened, until March 2005, when the sheriff’s office won a bid to take over jail operation. We don’t think a second experience would be any better. Tulsa World

Opinion: A job for government. Tucked into a dusty corner of the Senate’s pending Highway Trust Fund bill is a zombie proposal to hire private debt-collection agencies to hound delinquent taxpayers on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has actually tried outsourcing tax-collection activities before, at Congress’ behest. Twice, in fact, over the last two decades. Both times, the experiment was a disaster. Privatizing delinquent tax collections led to complaints from taxpayers who got harassed and bullied by an industry known for rampant harassment and bullying, particularly of low-income people who don’t know their rights. Perhaps more important, at least from a fiscal responsibility perspective, both times the program was scrapped because it actually cost taxpayers money on net, despite assurances ahead of time of the huge bounty it would lasso. The Leaf-Chronicle



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