Friday, May 12, 2006

Leasing Mitchell International Airport

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an article today about an idea being floated around by some County supervisors to lease out Mitchell International Airport.

It's actually not a bad idea, as long as real oversight is maintained by the County to protect the integrity of the surrounding neighborhood and the public employees who work at the airport.

Considering the airport is actually a money-maker for the County right now, the move would be to make more money. According to the 2006 County budget, the total airport budget had a $415,488 surplus in 2005 and there are projections for another surplus in 2006.

This surplus includes both Timmerman and Mitchell. But since it appears Timmerman is actually a bit of a drag on the budget, to the tune of $216,965 in 2005, the excess money comes entirely from Mitchell.

Leasing out Mitchell could draw in millions each year for the County, so the difference is significant. An estimate from the conservative think tank Wisconsin Policy Research Institute over a decade ago put the annual lease payments at $8 million -- undoutedly they'd be higher today. The City of Chicago currently rakes in $1.8 billion per year by leasing out the Skyway toll bridge.

As a progressive Dem, I certainly don't look to privatizing as a cure-all or even a desired outcome. But as a resident of the County, I also think it's important to be pragmatic and consider every reasonable option to maintain the solvency of the County's finances. Difficult decisons need to be made when forging public policy in tough fiscal times -- leasing Mitchell International Airport may be one of them.


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