Coalition works to boost P3 use among all levels of government

By Kathy Hoffman posted 12-04-2014 10:33 AM

Governments at all levels should work to eliminate barriers and uncertainty regarding public-private partnerships so that such projects can be delivered as expeditiously as possible, said John Palatiello, president of the Business Coalition for Fair Competition.

“In a time of tight budgets and a lack of an appetite among the American people for tax increases, public-private partnerships are an innovative way to address our infrastructure needs,” he said.

The Business Coalition for Fair Competition, or BCFC, is composed of trade groups, including NASBP; businesses; and organizations with the purpose of preventing unfair government-sponsored competition, according to its website. Public-private partnerships are a way to alleviate that issue, Palatiello said. 

NASBP participation in the BCFC has been beneficial to NASBP in many ways including enhancing NASBP’s outreach to businesses, including construction firms, and to members of Congress and their staff who share the same philosophical goals concerning government procurement. BCFC frequently hosts important events in which NASBP attends and meets with members of Congress and with their staff as well as with candidates running for office.
“If you use the term 'privatization' as a general umbrella term, you realize under that umbrella there are a variety of strategies and tools that can be used where the private sector is engaged with the government instead of competing with the government,” Palatiello said. Public-private partnerships, called P3s for short, are among those strategies; and they have the benefit of allowing governments to transfer risks and cost savings, he said. States are increasingly enacting legislation to “embrace the P3 model.” Recently, NASBP worked with the BCFC to create a model P3 issue white paper. The white paper provides a basic understanding of P3s while asking Congress and various levels of government not to impede, prohibit, or delay the use of P3s to help fund public projects. 

The BCFC is reaching out to governments to “create a level of understanding that there are a variety of tools” such as P3s “that can be utilized to help address issues that historically have been viewed as government alone being the only solution,” Palatiello said. One example is the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, also called MAP-21. When the legislation was working its way through Congress, the BCFC was active in opposing an amendment that would have prohibited any P3 highway project from counting toward lane miles that factor into states' federal highway funding.

The BCFC also has held policy roundtables with U.S. Reps. John Duncan, R-Tenn., and Tom Petri, R-Wis., during highway-bill drafting in order to bring associations, think tanks and companies together to discuss private-sector involvement in highway legislation, which led to several ideas that were included in legislation.

In September, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Special Panel on Public-Private Partnerships released a report, signaling the growing interest in using P3s.

“Even from a broad standpoint, their recommendations were to increase the use of P3s, to look at both the public and private sector as having talent and assets to bring to the table for the country's transportation and infrastructure needs,” Palatiello said. The expectation is that federal legislation concerning highways, water resources, aviation and other infrastructure needs will involve more P3s as barriers to such projects are removed.

In addition, P3s are catching the attention of congressional lawmakers for their potential to improve delivery in areas where the government has been the traditional provider, such as social services, Palatiello said.

“It's an indication of how the concept is catching on even beyond the infrastructure market,” he said.

Other organizations have joined the Coalition and signed onto BCFC Congressional letters. Among them are the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Construction Industry Round Table (CIRT) and International Code Council (ICC).

For more information about the Business Coalition for Fair Competition, visit the BCFC website.