Commentary

Governor Rendell (PA) says “Help Me Kill the Office of Public Benefit”

Cezary Podkul reports here about Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s speech at an Infrastructure Investor Conference last Thursday in New York City
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Governor Rendell urged investors to oppose the creation of an Office of Public Benefit to oversee public-private partnerships (PPP) which is included in Chairman Oberstar’s proposed $500 billion 6-year transportation authorization bill.

“We must stop the Office of Public Benefit from being created,” as it will have a “chilling effect on private investment in infrastructure”. Rendell said the powers of this office would essentially amount to a veto power over PPP’s on the nation’s highways, posing a hurdle to private investment just at the time when the US needs it most.

My colleague Bob Poole wrote about the proposal’s flaws here in June. He also looked at the Office of Public Benefit saying ” there is the glaring contradiction in the bill claiming to favor sensible use of tolling and public-private partnerships but creating new federal regulation of same” and “the proposed powers of the new Office of Public Benefit, Tolling Requirements, and Public-Private Partnership Requirements goes far beyond that. ”

We would all agree with the Governor, “We have got to unleash the power of private investment in every way possible.”

Shirley Ybarra is a former senior transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Ms. Ybarra served as Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1998 to 2002, overseeing a budget of $3.2 billion and a staff of 13,000 people. Between 1994 and 1998, Ybarra was Virginia's Deputy Secretary of Transportation.

Ybarra also served as senior policy advisor and special assistant for policy for U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole from 1983 to 1987. In that role, Ybarra managed the transfer and privatization of Dulles and National Airports to the Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority.

Ybarra authored Virginia's Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995, considered the model public-private partnership legislation in the United States.

In 2001, Ybarra received the American Road and Transportation Builders Association's "Public-Private Ventures Entrepreneur of the Year Award" for her leadership in designing innovative infrastructure financing.

She holds a Master's degree in Economics and a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.