Testimony on Public Private Partnerships by Mayor Elliott Hartstein, Village of Buffalo Grove, to the Senate Appropriations Committee II
- By Guest Author
- July 20, 2006
Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to testify. My name is Elliott Hartstein, and I am Mayor of Buffalo Grove and also serve on the Executive Committee of the Regional Planning Board for the Chicago metropolitan region now know as CMAP. The views I express today are my own based on my experiences and involvements in working with many groups for the betterment of our region.
- We nee innovative approaches to fund transportation but must tread carefully. Leasing or sales of public assets like our tollways need to be carefully evaluated. Said approach should not be used unless and until the proposals guaranty the protection of our public investment and insure short and long term accountability coupled with limitations on pass throughs to consumers above limits without government approval. We need to make sure that these innovative processes protect the public investment, users and adjacent communities. The magnitude of a proposed sale or lease of the Tollways dictates that the public should be given clear indication of how proceeds would be used, and an opportunity to give reasonable input before commitments are made to proceed.
- Any government that is considered needs to include provisions that provide limitations and governmental approval before those limitations are exceeded. Privatization is not a substitute for strong and effective decision making by government. Government remains responsible and accountable for the delivery of services. There needs to be standards and reasonable limitations on tolls or fees that could be passed on to citizens from a private entity.
- We need to ensure that public/private partnerships adequately address issues of local concern. For example, who would be responsible for building sound walls that minimize negative impacts on neighboring land? Reserve funds from proceeds must be set up that will generate interest that will fund these ongoing needs.
- There is a possibility for generating mega dollars. City of Chicago raised $1.83 billion by selling the Chicago Skyway. I have heard estimates of figures like 20 billion as a possibility for the Tollway system. Large infusions of cash from up front payments should be dedicated to needed new infrastructure, and not dissipated into the general revenue fund or used to bail out pensions with no new capital assets for the public at the end of the day. It would be a travesty to not have new needed assets generated from dollars that become available from a major state asset.
- Many current transportation shortfalls could be overcome with such a large infusion of funds as might be realized from a lease or sale of tollways or other public assets. A perfect example is a project like the Route 53 extension north through Lake County and the Route 120 bypass connection to the Tollway.
- The new agency that I serve on, the Regional Planning Board now know as CMAP, was created in 2005 by the Illinois General Assembly for the express purpose of promoting better integrated planning for transportation and land use. I know the CMAP Board is ready to assist in analyzing the potential benefits of public/private partnerships and to participate in their implementation if they come to fruition.
- I believe the state should seriously consider and weigh these innovative options only after full input from agencies like the RPB/CMAP, that are invested in the long term needs of the region, whether a public/private partnership to operate existing tollways and build new ones is the best approach for our State. Working together this can be the beginning of an intensive effort to upgrade transportation as a whole, to protect the system’s public uses, and to give our citizens the infrastructure and services they expect and deserve.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before this committee, and good luck with your deliberations.