The reason that people are receiving these solicitations is because of an ALEC-based law passed by Scott Walker and the Teapublicans which forbids the city from helping the homeowners out, as reported by Mike Ivey at the Cap Times:
Dailey says the repairs generally involved digging up the street or front yard. The work usually went beyond a simple blockage that can be cleared by a drain cleaning service like Roto-Rooter.I know a family that just had that kind of work done. Per the law, it was done by private companies. A two day job took two weeks and ran over $20,000. The family did qualify for a grant so over half of it was paid by the taxpayers. The remaining part was paid for by a low interest load, again footed by the taxpayers.
“We were maybe doing a dozen or so each year,” he estimates. “When somebody would call us with a major problem, we would just go out and fix it.”
But the 2011 state budget made that practice illegal. The provision, which was added to the budget by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee and signed by Gov. Scott Walker, specifically prohibits cities from “using their own workforce to perform a construction project (ie., road, sewer, water, stormwater, wastewater, grading, parking lot, or other infrastructure-related projects) for which a private person is financially responsible.”
It’s unclear why the item was put into the budget but the change appears rooted in a philosophical belief that the private sector can do a better job maintaining infrastructure. On its website, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) promotes an initiative called "The Water/Wastewater Utility Public-Private Partnership Act" that calls for private control of those systems.
“Compared to many government entities, private entities can often build and operate systems at lower cost, can often bring capital to provide for system upgrades when public funds may not be available, and often have better access to personnel trained in the latest technologies and environmental compliance rules,” the ALEC model legislation reads.
And this is no the first example of something like this happening. Another aspect of the law forbids local government of collaboration and working together in order to force them to go to private businesses.
I reported two years ago how this particular law was screwing over the good people of Outagamie County:
Farming out a paint-striping job to a private company cost Outagamie County considerably more than having a neighboring county do the work under a reciprocal agreement.It's only a matter of time before they pass a law requiring people to hand their checks directly to the companies as we live in company towns and owe our souls to the company store.
So says Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who this week cited the highway improvement on County Road P near Black Creek as the first county project to confirm earlier fears that costs will spiral under a new state law.
Nelson called it a case of "sticker shock, a wake-up call to the governor and entire Legislature to repeal law changes that forbid local governments from working together and saving taxpayer dollars."
Here's the issue as Nelson described it: Outagamie County recently solicited quotes for paint striping 2.5 miles of County Road P. Under the old law, it would have cost $500 to $700 by using Calumet County's equipment and crew under a reciprocal agreement.
Those types of agreements are limited now under state law in an attempt by Republican legislators to push contracts to private businesses.
After Outagamie County solicited quotes from private vendors, only one was made. Century Fence, of Pewaukee, quoted $3,935 for the work, or more than five times the cost under the reciprocal agreement with Calumet County.
Purchasing and operating its own paint striper would cost Outagamie County in excess of $200,000, Nelson said. So it's logical for the county to make use of Calumet County's paint striper in exchange for letting Calumet County use Outagamie County's costly road reclaimer, a high- ticket machine that recycles and readies old asphalt pavement for re-use, Nelson said.
He called the substantial price hike "a sampling of things to come" unless the law is repealed.
Of course, if we can educate people to the importance of unions and remind them that we've been there, done that, there might be hope yet.