A proposal on how to wring money out of the Ohio Turnpike could be announced within 30 days, Gov. John Kasich has said.
One possibility involves a long-term lease of the 241-mile toll road through northern Ohio. Another would involve issuing bonds against turnpike revenues.
If a lease ultimately is suggested, the governor and lawmakers don't have to look far for examples of public assets being leased to private entities.
In June, 2006, a foreign consortium paid $3.8 billion to lease the 157-mile Indiana?Toll Road for 75 years. So far, the investors - due mainly to the Great Recession - are losing money on the deal. The big difference for drivers has been tolls that have doubled.
Thus, Kasich's original hope of getting $3 billion for leasing the Ohio toll road may be overly optimistic.
But state officials needn't look outside the state when evaluating the idea. A private firm, Corrections Corp. of America, paid $72.7 million last year for a state prison in Ashtabula County.
Recently, it was reported Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has found the company hired to run the prison is failing to comply with a third of the state's operating rules for corrections facilities. State officials found health, safety and security problems at the prison, which houses about 1,500 inmates.
That's something for lawmakers to keep in mind if they evaluate leasing the turnpike or issuing bonds against future toll revenues. The former is more plausible, assuming a privately run turnpike could operate more profitably - either through greater cost efficiencies, higher tolls or both.
Otherwise, as with bonds, the move essentially would involve taking an advance against future income. The risk is whether that income also would be needed in the future.