Protecting Public Assets

STOP BAD PRIVATIZATION DEALS—Pennsylvania's roadways and other public infrastructure must be operated for the long-term public interest.

Making sure the public gets a fair deal on privatization proposals

Across Pennsylvania, cash-strapped governments are struggling to plug gaping holes in their budgets. At the same time, Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges remain congested and in desperate need of repair.

Enter global private infrastructure companies and their backers in the world of investment banking. Touting the benefits of public-private partnerships, these companies are seeking to build new private highways or offering up-front cash for existing roads… all in exchange for the right to charge and collect tolls on motorists for decades to come.

Road, parking, and other privatization proposals offer a hard-to-resist “quick fix” for state budget and transportation challenges. But poorly conceived privatization deals can have hidden costs and big potential downsides for the public.

PROTECTING THE PUBLIC FROM BAD PRIVATIZATION DEALS

To protect the public interest, Pennsylvania and its local governments should avoid privatization of existing infrastructure and allow private deals of new construction only under the following conditions:

•The public should retain control over decisions about transportation planning and management.
• The public must receive full value so future toll revenues won’t be sold off at a discount.
• No deal should last longer than 30 years because of uncertainty over future conditions and because the risks of a bad deal grow exponentially over time.
• Contracts should require state-of-the-art maintenance and safety standards instead of statewide minimums.
• Complete transparency and public disclosure are needed to ensure proper public vetting of privatization proposals.
• There must be full accountability in which the legislature must approve the terms of a final deal, not just approve that a deal be negotiated.

Issue updates

Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

PIRG’s Trouble In Toyland

The recall of 45 million toys and other children’s products in 2007 and continued recalls in 2008 reminded Americans that no government agency tests toys before they are put on the shelves. Specifically, the wave of recalls focused attention on the fact that the agency charged with protecting Americans from unsafe products—the Consumer Product Safety Commission—is a little agency with a very big job to do.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Budget, Transportation

Leasing the turnpike would be like signing up for an HMO -- for 75 years!

The proposed contract to privatize the Pennsylvania Turnpike is available on the Internet, but most people won't read one word of the 686-page document. Not only is its length intimidating, but it begins with 21 pages of specialized definitions, such as "compensation event," cross-referenced to other parts of the contract. Might as well post a Keep Out sign.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Budget, Transportation

Read the fine print

The proposed contract to privatize the Pennsylvania Turnpike is available on the Internet, but most people won't read one word of the 686-page document. Not only is its length intimidating, but it begins with 21 pages of specialized definitions, such as "compensation event," cross-referenced to other parts of the contract. Might as well post a Keep Out sign.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Transportation Funding Testimony

In brief, the PennPIRG Education Fund is advocating that the Commission recommend the expansion of existing revenue streams for public transit, such as the real estate transfer tax, the tire tax, and the rental car tax, as well as developing new funding mechanisms, such as a transportation impact fee, a vehicle sales tax based on weight and/or fuel efficiency, as well as several others.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Testimony on Potential Lease of the PA Turnpike

Many of the concerns raised about leasing Pennsylvania highways in general, and the Turnpike in particular, revolve around costs in a monetary sense, especially raising tolls. But there are many less visible costs whose impact will be far greater than toll increases under the proposed contract. These costs need to be brought into the discussion.

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Pages

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Following years of rollbacks, President Joe Biden began his term nearly a year ago amidst unprecedented environmental and public health challenges. Despite these obstacles, his administration has made significant strides toward restoring lost environmental protections and confronting daunting threats to our climate and public health, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Following years of rollbacks, President Joe Biden began his term nearly a year ago amidst unprecedented environmental and public health challenges. Despite these obstacles, his administration has made significant strides toward restoring lost environmental protections and confronting daunting threats to our climate and public health, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has released research showing that the financial sector overrelies on overdraft fees and non-sufficient funds (NSF) revenue, which reached an estimated $15.47 billion in 2019. Ironically, one of America’s 15 largest banks, Capital One, announced earlier in December that it will eliminate all overdraft and NSF fees.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act (VCFCA) was reintroduced in the House Committee on Financial Services on Monday. This bill would limit interest rates on loans and go a long way toward protecting consumers, including veterans, who are often victimized by predatory lenders.

Consumer Protection

Not First Class

Our report highlights how flier complaints have soared as airlines cancel flights, deny refunds, and ruin plans. Find out which airlines have the most complaints and what you can do.

 

Transportation

Advocates call on Pittsburgh's Port Authority for stronger electric bus commitment

Pittsburgh is on the verge of leaving dirty diesel buses in the dust — as long as it sticks to its commitment. In response to the Port Authority leaving the door open for gas-powered vehicles, advocacy groups urged a stronger commitment to clean electric buses.

 

Consumer Protection

The FCC is starting to fight back against robocalls

Research found that, despite the FCC's recent action, phone companies aren't doing enough to block spoofed calls and scam calls, despite a new law.

 

Consumer Protection

PIRG's consumer watchdogs get to work in wake of T-Mobile data breach

Cell phone carrier T-Mobile has announced that nearly 55 million Americans were affected by a hack of its records, which in some cases compromised Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. In response, PIRG published a tip guide for how those affected can protect themselves against identity theft or "phishing" scams.

 
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