Capitol Comments

The operator of the Indiana Toll Road announced this month it would seek bankruptcy protection with a creditor-supported restructuring plan. While the toll road was one of the first transportation public-private partnerships (P3s) in this country, it hasn’t really proven to be the model for other P3s as some believed it would. And, at least for now, it appears the bankruptcy will have little impact either on motorists who use the facility or on the burgeoning P3 industry in the United States. I also have a roundup of recent reports from the American Society of Civil Engineers and Eno Center for Transportation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Plus the usual collection of links on MAP-21 reauthorization, the future of the Highway Trust Fund, state transportation funding initiatives, P3s and tolling and state multi-modal strategies.

California voters will have an opportunity on the November 2014 ballot to approve Proposition 45 requiring that the state insurance commissioner approve proposed increases in health insurance rates. The campaign for the proposition is led by Consumer Watchdog, a group that has taken on the automobile and home insurance industries previously.

In 35 other states,...

The Department of Labor has awarded $14,837,785 in grants to six states - California, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota and South Dakota - to improve employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities as part of the Disability Employment Initiative. The initiative awards grants to help increase the participation of adults and youth with disabilities in existing career pathway systems and other programs that bring together educational insitutions, the private sector and disability advocates. 

Congress’ decision this summer to once again tap general funds to temporarily patch up the dwindling federal Highway Trust Fund loomed large over discussions at the 2014 CSG Transportation Policy Academy, held Sept. 15-17 in Washington, D.C. But the nine state legislators who attended the event also heard about plenty of innovation going on in states and communities around the country.

Researchers at the Center for American Progress estimate that hunger costs the U.S. at least $167.5 billion every year based on a combination of lost economic productivity, increased education expenses, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity. 

Food insecurity – the lack of consistent access to adequate food – affects millions of children and adults every year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Almost 15 percent of all households in 2013 were food insecure, or 49.1 million Americans. On average, from 2003-2011, around one in ten households that include children were food insecure, ranging from a low of 5.1 percent in New Hampshire to a high of 12.8 percent in Texas.

Hunger affects millions of children every year in the U.S. and is linked to greater rates of absenteeism and school disciplinary problems. Those behaviors are, in turn, associated with lower academic achievement and greatly increase the chance a child will drop out of school – which comes with a huge price tag for tax payers. 

The 2014 CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. wrapped up September 17 with a listening session at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Carlos Monje, counselor to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and others were on hand to talk about federal transportation programs and to field questions and comments from the state legislators in attendance. Monje has recently been nominated for the post of Assistant Secretary for Policy at DOT. The wide-ranging discussion focused on such topics as efforts to push for a long-term transportation bill, the success of the federal TIGER program, public-private partnerships and mileage-based user fees. This page includes selected excerpts from participants in the meeting and links to additional resources on some of the topics discussed.

Day three of the 2014 CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. began with a briefing on public-private partnerships (P3s). State legislators attending the academy heard from Thomas Halloran of the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Innovative Finance Office about the state’s exploration of a P3 to build the Purple Line light rail project in the D.C. suburbs. Douglas Koelemay, the Director of the Virginia Office of Public-Private Partnerships, spoke about his state’s extensive experience on P3s on projects like the Capital Beltway Express Lanes and how the Virginia P3 program may change going forward. And Jonathan Gifford from the Center for Transportation Public-Private Partnership Policy at George Mason University discussed trends in the evolution of P3s around the country and emerging best practices in P3s for states. This page includes highlights of the speakers’ remarks, photos from the event, presentations and related resources and links.

Day two of the 2014 CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. wrapped up with remarks by Joshua Schank, President and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a D.C.-based foundation and think tank focused on transportation issues. He spoke about why Congress has been unable to pass a long-term surface transportation bill and some potential alternative approaches for structuring the federal transportation program. This page includes highlights of Schank’s remarks and some related links of interest.

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