Gubernatorial Candidate Virg Bernero. (Photo courtesy Votevirg.com. Reprinted with permission.)
ST. IGNACE, Mich. -- Gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero and a throng of supporters stood at the Upper Peninsula foot of the Mackinac Bridge today, Oct. 26, to hold a "Save the Bridge" rally and oppose plans to sell off the Bridge to a private corporation.
Bernero’s opponent, Rick Snyder, said recently that he would consider selling off the Mackinac Bridge as a way to make short-term money for the State.
"I strongly disagree with Mr. Snyder on this. I will not consider selling off the Mackinac Bridge for one second," said Bernero. "The Mackinac Bridge is one of our state’s most cherished symbols. This would be like selling out a piece of who we are as Michiganders."
The Mackinac Bridge is one of Michigan’s most well-known icons -- so recognizable and filled with meaning for Michigan residents that Rick Snyder uses an image of the Bridge in his latest TV attack ad on Bernero. It’s ironic Snyder now says he may sell off the Bridge.
Privatizing the Mackinac Bridge would likely mean substantially higher tolls for bridge travelers. As it stands now, tolls are only enough to cover Bridge operations, but a private company would seek to profit off bridge travelers and would need to raise tolls substantially and/or or cut jobs or maintenance to do that.
And the company who bought the Bridge could also own naming rights, meaning they could sell the name as is done with football stadiums and college football bowl games.
"If Mr. Snyder sells the Bridge to an out of state or foreign company, it would mean higher tolls, lost jobs and Michigan dollars leaving our economy," Bernero said. "If Rick Snyder becomes governor the Bridge could even be renamed something like the 'Tostitos.com' Bridge, or the 'McDonald’s Big Mac.' It’s funny to think about, but unfortunately Mr. Snyder is dead serious. It makes you wonder what other state treasures he might sell off."
State governments across the country have begun selling major highways and other infrastructure to corporations as a quick-fix way to plug holes in the state budget, rather than making government more efficient. By the beginning of 2009, 15 major roads had been privatized in 10 states with more under discussion.
For example, Republican Governor and former George W. Bush Administration official Mitch Daniels -- whom Rick Snyder has said he hopes to emulate -- successfully pushed to have Indiana’s toll roads auctioned off in 2006. Since then, tolls have doubled, increasing for the first time since 1985, jobs have been cut, and Indiana taxpayers will ultimately lose an estimated $7.2 billion as a result of the deal.
"We need to stop looking for quick fixes to our budget problems," said Bernero. "It's time to cut government and make it more efficient. That’s what I’ve done to balance the budget without raising taxes every single year I’ve been mayor."
Not surprisingly, Wall Street players are cashing in on the new wave of privatization of public assets. In fact, Goldman Sachs is serving as an adviser to states on how to structure privatization deals, while simultaneously positioning itself to invest in the new toll road market.
Bernero closed today’s event telling the crowd there is one simple thing each Michigander can do to save the Mackinac Bridge.
"If you want to save the Mackinac Bridge, you just have to vote for Virg Bernero for governor on November 2nd," he said.