More Demagoguery on Indiana Toll Road

You’d think that Gov. Daniels’ drubbing of Jill Long-Thompson, whose campaign platform seemed to revolve around a naive hostility to Daniels privatization initiatives, in the November election would have taught politicos a lesson—anti-privatization demagoguery doesn’t translate into political support—but apparently not. Despite the fact that the Indiana Toll Road stopped reimbursing local fire departments for services on the tollway years before it was privatized, now some opportunistic folks have lined up to demand a cut from the private operator:

The private operators of the Indiana Toll Road would have to pay fire departments that respond to collisions that occur along the northern Indiana interstate under a bill proposed by two state senators. State Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, said it is unfair that highway operator ITR Concession Co. is making money off the roadway, but not paying property taxes. “Homeowners and businesses pay for fire protection by paying property taxes. It doesn’t seem fair for Hoosiers paying property taxes to cover emergency services on the Toll Road, thereby increasing profits for the Toll Road operation and bolstering pension funds in Australia,” he said. Zakas is co-sponsoring the bill with state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe.

Hmmmm…I guess that under the proponents’ logic, then it was indeed fair for Hoosiers to pay property taxes to cover emergency fire services when the ITR was under public operation, but somehow now it’s not. And I guess that they also conveniently forget that the $3.85 billion upfront payment for the ITR lease is being used to fund a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar statewide transportation construction program (Major Moves)— in other words, that’s $3.85 billion in statewide tax and fee increases avoided through the lease. This is nothing more than an thinly-veiled, opportunistic cash-grab play with a splash of anti-private, anti-foreign demagoguery mixed in. Smells like an ugly, toxic brew to me—hopefully the sponsors’ colleagues in the legislature will smell the same thing and move on to more important issues, like closing the state’s $763 million budget gap, advancing the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform’s bold reform package, etc., etc.?