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Ray of Hope

As many of you know I have long been an advocate of privatizing many state government operations in an effort to save taxpayers money and in an effort to provide a more streamlined, efficient government. Of course, I figured that such an idea was little more than a pipe dream in an era dominated by the wasteful spending and lack of competence displayed by the O’Malley Administration.

Needless to say, I was stunned to read this in the Sun this morning regarding the Port of Baltimore:

Hiring a private contractor to run Seagirt under a long-term lease is one possible avenue the state could pursue by mid-2009. The operator would assume complete control of Seagirt – the berths, cranes, containers, asphalt, everything but the land itself – and cough up millions for projects that the state feels it can’t afford. “We’d say, ‘Here’s the keys: you operate it for 30 years and continue to improve the facility so you can continue to handle the ships that operate there,’ ” said James J. White, the port administration’s executive director.

“We have to create an environment that’s better than other ports so the ship owners want to come here….”

…Private operators bidding on Seagirt should propose to substantially raise its container volumes, White said. The MPA expects to hire a Wall Street firm by October to determine the prospects of a public-private partnership for Seagirt. The financial adviser would then draft a concession agreement that the port would float to the private sector. The state could also decide to extend Ports America’s contract or find another Seagirt tenant instead of forging ahead with privatization.

The prospect of a 20- to-30-year contract for the control of Seagirt should attract bids from at least 8 to 10 operators, said White, the MPA’s director. Both Ports America and the Mediterranean Shipping Co. say they would bid on a long-term lease.

“There’s going to be tremendous interest in this,” White said. “We would turn our portfolio over to them and say: ‘This is the business that we have today. You honor these contracts, be responsible for renewing them and bring in new business.”

Let’s give the devil its due on this one; I am pleased as punch that anybody in the O’Malley Administration is giving consideration to rational and sensible economic policies such as the option of privatization. Clearly, the State of Maryland is not the best equipped entity to run a port facility, much like they are not the entity best equipped to operate highways, prisons, or mass transit. And I am sure that there are private contractors out there who will be able to provide a great deal to the taxpayers of Maryland in order to improve the port, raise its economic viability, and provide jobs to the people of the Baltimore Area.

The O’Malley Administration has been plagued by bad decision making, cockamamie tax proposals, and general economic tomfoolery during the past 19 months. I am glad to see that there is, in fact, a Ray of Light coming from the Administration in at least one economic sector.

(Crossposted)






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