Three of the nation's most notable governors -- Pennsylvania's Ed Rendell, New York's David Paterson, and California's Arnold Schwarzenegger -- have penned a column for the Huffington Post highlighting the critical need to invest the the nation's infrastructure.
The problem is grim. The solution, according to the govs, is to turn to the private sector:
The good news is that we already possess the technology and expertise to build a world-class infrastructure. The bad news is that it will be expensive -- and state and local governments, which traditionally finance infrastructure projects, lack the necessary resources. (While President Obama's economic stimulus plan has been successful in putting people back to work, it is, by design, a short-term solution that represents only a small fraction of the long-term investment we need.)
Therefore, if we are to finance and build a world-class infrastructure for America, we must seek new solutions. And a promising solution is at hand: public-private partnerships.
By combining government oversight with private-sector efficiencies, we can build more projects; we can build them more quickly; we can improve services for our citizens; and we can lower costs for taxpayers. And by infusing billions of private-sector dollars into infrastructure, public-private partnerships would also put millions of Americans back to work.
They go on to make the requisite case for "rigorous accountability measures" to oversee private firms' involvement.
What interested me was the governors' certainty that there is "great demand among the private sector for these partnerships."
Maybe that's true. But I found it to be an interesting contrast with an item that ran in the most recent issue of the B&G Report, a column by state and local management gurus Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene. (The column runs in Governing's twice-monthly Management e-newsletter.)
According to B&G:
There is absolutely no question in our minds that
using public-private partnerships to provide infrastructure is an
almost unstoppable approach. But such partnerships are hardly moving
full-speed ahead anymore. According to Tollroadsnews.com, the Florida Department of Transportation received no bids from private-sector firms for the so-called "Alligator Alley,"
the cross-state toll road that runs from the Miami area to the Gulf
Coast near Naples. Apparently there was significant interest months
ago, as four major bidders had considered throwing their hats in the
ring. But in these very uncertain economic times, no one actually chose
to make a bid.
So the question is, what if you hosted a public-private party and no one came?