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Sen. Durbin's Bill: If You're Going To Lease The Assets We Funded, You Have To Reimburse Us First

This is a great idea. It provides a legitimate basis for the feds to intervene in this madness that's spreading through the country like wildfire: WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced the introduction of a bill that could make it

This is a great idea. It provides a legitimate basis for the feds to intervene in this madness that's spreading through the country like wildfire:

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced the introduction of a bill that could make it considerably more difficult for cash-strapped states and cities to lease their transportation assets to private investors.

The bill would require states and cities to repay any federal funds they used to build or maintain the assets, such as toll roads or airports, as a condition of leasing them, likely thwarting many deals before they happen. It would also call for more transparency in the negotiation of such deals.

In recent years some local governments, such as the City of Chicago and the State of Indiana, have traded their right to collect money on toll roads to foreign investors in exchange for billion-dollar up-front payments. Critics say such deals are short-sighted budget gimmicks that could end up burdening generations down the road.
Chicago's Midway Airport, where he spoke today, was nearly leased for $2.5 billion two years ago, but the deal fell apart.

"I'm really trying to stake some ground here on a principle and position that we ought to reflect on," Durbin told HuffPost. "The federal government is in debt. We are borrowing money to sustain our operations, and we're sending some of that money to states and localities for investment in infrastructure. We're making quite a sacrifice. If a decision is made by a local unit of government to privatize that public infrastructure, federal taxpayers should have a seat at the table."

As states and cities across the country face grim budgets, more and more are looking to stem their shortfalls by leasing existing assets, such as roads, lotteries or government buildings. The City of Harrisburg, Pa., may soon lease its parking meters to a private investors, as Chicago has already done for a 75-year period starting in 2008. Durbin remarked that he's already watched the cost of parking soar in Chicago since that city's deal was inked."It's a caution to all of us," Durbin said. "When we look at privatization, we have to look at the long-term."

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