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 OhioTurnpikeAnalysis.com, 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.