WTAM 1100 in Cleveland is reporting that John Kasich said in yesterday’s ODOT press conference that privatizing the Turnpike is on the table:

Privatize the Ohio Turnpike? It’s one of a number of money saving possibilities being looked at by Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich.
Kasich says a major issue right now is the economy. Could Ohio get enough money to make such a move worth it? Kasich also says leasing the Turnpike could also be a possibility.

You can listen to the audio of the Governor-elect here.

Here’s what Kasich said about the Turnpike during the campaign:

Both Strickland and Kasich said they have no plans to follow Daniels’ lead by privatizing the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike. As part of Daniels’ approach to covering shortfalls in Indiana’s transportation budget, the governor cut a deal to lease the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road for 75 years to a foreign consortium in exchange for a $3.8 billion lump-sum payment.

Kasich said that privatizing the turnpike "doesn’t make a lot of sense" now because it wouldn’t be fiscally prudent. "The problem right now with considering privatizing the turnpike is you don’t get any money for it," Kasich said. "The capital markets are very terrible."
In the 2006 race for governor, GOP nominee J. Kenneth Blackwell proposed leasing the Ohio Turnpike to a private entity for 99 years, estimating it would raise as much as $6 billion.

(Source: Columbus Dispatch, (Jul. 22, 2010))

Now in the remarks from yesterday, Kasich seems to try to draw a distinction between “privatizing” the Turnpike and “leasing” it.  Perhaps to avoid being accused of flip-flopping given his comments during the campaign.

But that semantics doesn’t work.  Kasich was asked, specifically, in July while touring the State with Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) if Kasich would do the same thing as Daniels did in “privatizing” the Turnpike.  However, Daniels’ “privatization” consisted entirely of leasing.  Therefore privatization and leasing in this context is synonymous.  There is no distinction.  Regardless, simply admitting that BOTH are on the table (assuming there’s some distinction we can’t see) is still a reversal of his position during the campaign.

But let’s remember another promise Kasich, at least implicitly, made during the campaign.  He relentlessly attacked Strickland for balancing the budget with “one-time” money.  The way the Indiana and similar “leases” worked is that the lessor pays an upfront lump sum:

As part of Daniels’ approach to covering shortfalls in Indiana’s transportation budget, the governor cut a deal to lease the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road for 75 years to a foreign consortium in exchange for a $3.8 billion lump-sum payment.

(Ibid.)

Therefore, it’s pretty clear that Kasich is trying to wiggle away from his prior position and now suggest he’s considering doing something he denied he’d do during the campaign—privatize the Turnpike by leasing it out and potentially on his criticisms about relying on one-time money to balance the budget.

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  • J-Dog

    What a bastard! How long do we have to wait to pursue impeachment?

  • Anonymous

    LOL. I think that’s not the reaction I was expecting.

  • Anonymous

    I guess you can say that, in one way, Kasich believes the economy’s already gotten better than it was this summer?!?

  • Anastasjoy

    Privatizing the parking meters in Chicago ended the 50-plus year Daley dynasty. When Daley privatized the meters, the cost of parking multiplied. The money received was almost all spent in the first year and the asset is gone for 75 years. People were furious. These deals are debacles. I already don’t take the turnpike anymore on my frequent trips to Chicago since the cost of my trip has gone from $5.15 to $9 in the last three years. If the turnpike is privatized I can’t imagine how high tolls will go. There’s another issue too: with tolls cutting into trucking profits, semis are increasingly taking Rt. 2 from Cleveland to Toledo, just like I do. So then that road gets torn up and has to be repaired more frequently and guess who pays for that? It sure doesn’t come out of turnpike tolls anymore because those are going into a private pocket to make some wealthy campaign donor even richer. This also impacts the economy of northern Ohio, making it more expensive to do business than in the southern and central part of the state where highway access is free. But maybe Kasich could change that too. Remember this mantra: a toll increase is a TAX INCREASE. Democrats, are you afraid to use that in commercials?

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, Anastasia, I think the answer is yes, yes, they are.

    I’ve never understood WHY it’s still a Turnpike in the first place. The State paid off the construction bonds for the Turnpike during the Voinovich Administration, I’ve been told.

  • Bob

    So why not make I-71 a toll road to make things fair? I agree that the people of Northern Ohio have to pay more in “taxes” than the rest of the state, but then those areas tend to vote Dem.

    Let Kasich have his way on this and other plans and Ohio will lose 10% of its population by the end of his first term.

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  • Modern, this post from my old blog will give you a better picture of why it’s still a toll road: http://www.blueohioblog.com/2006/06/ken-blackwells-turnpike-folly.html

  • Slightly off topic: I just read the text posted alongside the audio at the WTAM link.It only has three paragraphs. And two of them make absolutely no sense at all. Hint: it’s the second and third.

    Privatize the Ohio Turnpike? It’s one of a number of money saving possibilities being looked at by Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich. Kasich says a major issue right now is the economy. Could Ohio get enough money to make such a move worth it? Kasich also says leasing the Turnpike could also be a possibility. Not matter what, Kasich says the Turnpike operations need to be given “a hard look” and that he’s had people buzzing around him about him about this.

  • Anastasjoy

    Making I-71 a toll road would have a devastating effect on Ohio’s economy — kind of like a Kasich administration.

  • Anastasjoy

    I wonder what they’re buzzing. Because something else just occurred to me. The trucking lobby OWNS John Kasich. And the trucking lobby would HATE this idea because tolls for trucks would REALLY explode.

  • Nicole

    Thanks for that – I never knew the History of the turnpike.

  • guest

    Wonder how long we have to wait to lease out Kasich’s job ? and all his buddies jobs —
    Wonder how much it would cost for a foreign company to hire him …..

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Nick. I say we don’t privatize it, we end it as a toll road. Problem solved.

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  • Anonymous

    Or the buzzing could be the reverse – his people are probably getting hit up for meetings from every Wall Street bank around seeking to be lead on the bond sale. If you get $5 billion in proceeds from a lease, there’s probably $500 million in it for the banks. That kind of money could generate a lot of buzz.

    But in addition to the truckers, the Farm Bureau voted today to oppose any privatization/lease of the Turnpike. I wonder if he told them to get on the bus?

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  • Lobeamn

    The Turnpike is still around because it pays for itself with tolls. It collects tolls to maintain the road, service plazas, toll interchanges and staff. If you don’t drive the road your money does not go to it. There are no tax dollars going to the Turnpike. People need to realize this.

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