Governor Kasich is talking about leasing the turnpike to a private operator if he can get somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion or higher with the agreement. In 2006, Governor Mitch Daniels negotiated a similar deal in which he leased the Indiana turnpike for 75 years for a one time payment of $3.85 billion. Kasich would use the money to pay off the $600 million debt the state has incurred due to the turnpike, and he would use the rest of the money, like Daniels, to maintain and build infrastructure.
Unloading the debt-ridden turnpike and the high salaries that go along with it is a great idea for Ohio. However, it might make sense to wait several years after capital markets have rebounded because we aren’t going to get top dollar for the sale of any state asset under the current economic conditions. Also, it would be extremely unwise to use funds from leasing the turnpike to plug the hole in the state budget. A one time stimulus as such would only be kicking the can down the road for yet another budget crisis in several years.
Regardless of whether the Governor leases the turnpike or keeps it for now, one thing is certain: Ohioans cannot afford to pay the average toll collector $52,700 and the highest paid toll collectors $66,000 a year when the average private sector worker is only making $40,100. It is also somewhat ironic that average toll collectors earns more money than average state workers ($50,200).
Even if Ohio doesn’t end up leasing out the turnpike, cost savings for the operation can be found in reducing the overly generous compensation packages of employees. It is highly doubtful a private company would pay anyone in a cashier type of role $66,000 per year, not even to mention the generous benefits and pensions. A degree is not required to collect tolls and properly make change.