When the Ohio Turnpike Commission meets tomorrow they will be announcing results from the $3.5 Million Turnpike study conducted by KPMG.   We fully expect this will include plans to lease the turnpike to foreign investors or to turn over control of the Turnpike to ODOT so that they can issue bonds against future revenue.

An email sent Friday by Rick Hodges, executive director of the Ohio Turnpike, asked employees NOT to attend the meeting and to instead watch the KPMG presentation streamed live at a web address that does not appear to be valid.  The email (shown below) claims employees should not attend because of “limited available seating in the Commission meeting room.”

We call BS.

If the Commission was serious about their stated goal of keeping their employees updated about “new information”, they would have found a bigger room.  Instead, it seems more likely they are trying to keep angry employees from interrupting the presentation when the truth finally comes out.

It goes without saying that whatever KPMG announces tomorrow, to help achieve Kasich’s goal of “unlocking the value” of the Turnpike, it will involve a plan to give the Kasich administration a huge pile of cash they can use for their own pet projects. And it most certainly will not please the absent turnpike employees or Ohioans who have overwhelmingly said they do not want Kasich and his cronies screwing with THEIR turnpike,  risking increased tolls and poor maintenance, simply so John has an extra Billion bucks to blow on stuff he thinks will help him win reelection next year.

Let’s be clear here:  ODOT has a $2.8 Billion annual budget, out of $56 Billion statewide biennium budget.  And Kasich is talking about selling off the Turnpike for decades in exchange for a one-time payment of $1 Billion – or a third of ODOT’s budget for a single year.  A drop in the bucket when you consider the long term implications of this decision.

Also keep in mind that the Turnpike is expected to generate $249 million in toll revenue this year.  So we’re potentially going to lease the turnpike to private investors for 25 years? 50 years?  100 years?  In exchange for a one time payment of a billion dollars, which works out to about four years of toll revenue on the Turnpike???

According to a presentation by Allen C. Biehl, an ODOT Deputy Director, ODOT’s Tier I (Construction Funded) projects are $1.6 billion over committed and Tier II (Preliminary Development) projects are $10 billion over committed.   So explain to me again how a one-time payment of $1 Billion is going to fill in the gap?

Even if you do naively believe the administration’s hype that ODOT needs cash to fund your local transportation project,  there’s no way Kasich’s one-time payment plan for the Turnpike is going to do much except supplement the budget for a year or two.

After that,  we’re back where we started: short on cash for important transportation projects.  But this time, we’ve also sold off the Turnpike for a generation or more.

Sit down and ask yourself: do you trust John Kasich to make a decision this important?  A decision that will impact you and your family and your children and your grandchildren for decades to come?

Or do you think it will turn out like Kasich’s plan to privatize Ohio’s prisons?

Kasich planned to sell five prisons to the private sector.  It turns out they only wanted one: the Lake Erie Correctional Institute, which was sold last year to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).  Just recently that prison was cited for “dozens of safety, health and security issues”.  Oh, and did we mention that the current director of Ohio’s Department of Corrections used to be CEO of CCA?

The prison sell off smelled funny.  And so does Kasich’s plan for the Turnpike.

Tomorrow’s meeting will start at 10:00 A.M. at the Turnpike Commission’s Administration Building, 682 Prospect Street, Berea, OH 44017.  We’ll provide “new information” as it becomes available.

Here’s Rick’s letter: