Despite a well-choreographed, two-day marketing blitz for his turnpike plan, we still don’t have any details on how or when Kasich’s plan will be implemented.  We only have some nice soundbytes from his press conference and a couple high-level presentations that cover the focus-group tested talking points Kasich claims he would “like” to see in the turnpike plan.

According to the slick website, produced by marketing and PR firm Fahlgren Mortine with your tax dollars, Kasich says he won’t lease the turnpike or layoff any turnpike workers, instead he will begin raising tolls every year on people who don’t use electronic tolling and drivers who travel more than 30 miles.  He will also require the turnpike to take on $1.5 Billion in new debt to be used for non-Turnpike projects but paid off, over time, with the new turnpike toll increases.

In the software industry we call this “slideware” : a fancy PowerPoint presentation about “software that is only on the drawing board and not anywhere near completion.”

Slideware can easily turn into vaporware, when the magic of the sales team’s imagination fails to meet up with the reality of development costs, time lines or developer abilities, and the actual application fails to materialize.  Sometimes it’s all very well intentioned.  Sometimes not.

But until an agreement is locked down in writing, everything is open to change and no one has any legal recourse if the promised functionality fails to materialize.

The same is true with Kasich’s promises this week.   We all have the right to be skeptical until we see a signed, final version of the bill, possibly months from now, on the Governor’s desk.

And a lot can happen between now and then.

State legislators have just started looking at Kasich’s analysis and proposal, and ultimately they are the ones who will have to pass legislation to enact the change.

As far as we know, legislative leaders weren’t involved in Kasich’s decision making process, and they haven’t made any of the same promises or commitments.

For example, Kasich said he wouldn’t lay off any turnpike employees, but Batchelder didn’t.  Neither did incoming State Senate President Faber.  These guys, just like us, are reading through the turnpike study for the first time, and what they’re going to see may certainly impact what goes into the actual bill.  For example, the analysis of toll operations in other states indicates Ohio could cut its toll transaction costs by over half if they hired a management company to run the toll booths.  This could be very appealing to Ohio’s Tea Party legislators.

Right now we have nothing but Kasich’s word that Republicans won’t pursue this, or other less popular options.   And even if the Governor is sincere, he will still need the support of legislators in his own party who might very well prefer to follow a different path and who may believe raising fees on truck drivers is effectively a tax on small businesses and taking on billions in new debt while increasing spending is exactly what they went into politics to stop.

All we have now are a couple of fancy PowerPoint slides and a website that highlights the focus group-tested talking points approved by Kasich’s marketing company Fahlgren.  We don’t have any language that might be introduced as a bill and, as far as we can tell, in typical Kasich fashion, legislators in his own party didn’t even find out what Kasich had decided until a few days prior to the big announcement.

It could be months before we see a draft of the legislation.  And given Kasich’s history on labor, privatization and honesty, I think I’m going to stay skeptical until I see something in writing.

  • Thomas Grover

    This sure sound like vulture capitalism to me, load it up with debt… How can we obtain a copy of the KPMG study we paid for.

  • A copy of the study is available on the website.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • Paul

    It sounds good to say tolls will be increased and paid for by the truckers who use the turnpike but lets be honest, those costs won’t be paid by the truckers, they will be passed on to the consumer. Meanwhile, increased turnpike revenues that the governor proposes will be used to fund road construction projects in Northern part of the state will allow the governor to to use previously allocated Northern ODOT funds to be used in the southern part of the state. It’s all a political shell game. Northern Ohio will still have the same revenue for infrastructure due to a toll increase on the turnpike while the rest of the state will see an increase in revenue because the governor and legislature can use the newly created surplus to fund Infrastructure in central and southern Ohio.

  • anastasjoy

    I don’t see a single good thing about this plan, especially for northern Ohio. Truckers using the northern route, servicing businesses in that sector of the state will have to take on a whole new expense, as will the businesses they serve. Meanwhile, the money will go to subsidize projects in other parts of the state that aren’t taking this economic hit. It is, as Paul says, a political shell game, and one in which northern Ohio loses anyway you look at it. Except, Paul, I think you’re wrong that Northern Ohio would have the same revenue for infrastructure. I think they’ll find a way to steal as much as they can and leave northern Ohio to rot. The only fair thing is to either untoll the turnpike completely and subsidize everybody from the general fund, or else toll I-70 to level the playing field.

    By the way, how much of the new debt the turnpike is saddled with is going into escrow to repair the increasing damage to routes 2, 20 and 6, as more and more heavy truck traffic diverts to those roads to save money? I diverted to them several years ago when the toll for the regular trips i make between Cleveland and Chicago doubled (so it’s people like ME, not just truckers, who are being hit) and I’ve seen more and more semi traffic there.

  • dmoore2222

    “…when the magic of the sales team’s imagination fails to meet up with the reality of development.” Hmmm. This sounds very much like the tax break frenzy Johnny the carnival barker presided over involving American Greetings, Diebold, Bob Evans et al, with very poor results. (Oh, and lets’s not forget the insane amount of money he offered to get Sears to come to Ohio) The kind of policy that he now rejects with great righteousness. This guy cannot be trusted.

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