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My Puddy-O-Meter told me that this would happen.  Anyone could have seen this coming a mile away.  And the new private program has only been in operation for 2 weeks.

Because of our poor air quality, for a couple of decades we've been required to have vehicle emission testing every 2 years before we can renew our license plates.  For many years these tests were done by a contracted private service, EnviroTest for the cost to the state of about $4.95 per test.  If you failed, you had to have your car repaired at a facility of your choice and return to the test site for a retest.

Under the old system, Envirotest received $3.2 million in 2011 - about $4.95 for each of the 645,611 tests conducted. Systech won a new five-year contract with a bid of nearly $2.6 million for 2012 - an expected $4.02 per test, assuming the same number of tests. The test facilities get half of that - $2 per test.

The advantage for the participating facilities is that they can try to sell additional services to those who come in for tests, or attract customers back for other work or to buy a new car. The advantage for customers is the convenience of decentralized locations, which means a shorter drive and, presumably, shorter wait times.

Yes, and because the contractor pockets the majority of what the state pays and gives $2 to the actual provider of the emission test, there's not only the opportunity, but a financial incentive to cheat the vehicle owner.

They sold this privatization scheme as a benefit to drivers who could now find a facility closer to them and avoid the long lines at the previous testing facilities.  It may have sounded like a good idea, but anyone who has ever heard about the repair scams that even nationally advertised repair facilities pull on their customers know that this change in testing locations had a high potential for fraud.  

To counter those concerns, our state government here in FitzWalkerStan said that the facilities would be pre-screened for inclusion in the program.  Despite that:

Five of the 198 approved facilities have an F rating with the Better Business Bureau, mainly because the businesses did not respond when the bureau approached them on behalf of unsatisfied customers. Another facility has a D rating.
What we have now is the fox guarding the chicken coop.  Every other annual license plate renewal in Wisconsin must be accompanied by a passing vehicle emissions test.  What is happening now is that instead of having those tests done at a facility that ONLY does the testing, the tests are now done at repair facilities which have the profit motive and opportunity to oversell repairs - particularly to those who waited until virtually the last minute for testing on their vehicles.

There are so many stories of scam repairs - shops that turn a $100 repair into $1000 or more because most of us don't have a clue about the innerds of our vehicles.  Walkers privatization scheme simply funnels suckers directly to the profit-making service centers.

Just 2 weeks into the change, the average failure rate for emission testing has increased from the previous 6-7% to 9% with 8 facilities reporting 20% or higher failure rates.

The Journal Sentinel analysis shows so far this year, 70% - 139 out of 198 facilities - have fail rates that are above last year's statewide average. All the technicians the Journal Sentinel spoke to said they couldn't alter or tamper with the results of the tests.
The case featured in the article involved an 82 year old woman who took her 2007 Malibu for emissions testing to a Better Business Bureau A rated facility.  There she was told her car failed emissions testing and that she needed $2500 in repairs on her vehicle - money she couldn't afford.  Her son, horrified that his mother was about to take out a loan for that amount so she could renew her license and continue to drive, took the vehicle elsewhere and discovered that only $417 in repairs were needed.

About 20 drivers have already filed complaints with the state, but Scott Selbach, the state supervisor of the vehicle emissions program says ..... wait for it .....

"Ultimately, the market is going to drive the success or failure of these businesses," Selbach said.
Riiiiight!  Let Wisconsinites who are required to have their vehicles tested to renew their licenses keep getting cheated by these private repair facilities until the "free market" does its magic.  After all, the "free market" has done such a good job of getting rid of auto repair scammers already.

Sadly, most Wisconsinites aren't going to see (or be told) about the Walker connection in all of this.  Only 2 weeks into this privatization scheme and already it's gone bad.

My own car will be due for testing in May of 2013.  I'll need to remember that I can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (for all the good that ever does), to the profit-making Systec which holds the state vehicle emissions testing contract (good luck with that), to the scamming repair facility itself (like they'll do anything), or to a Walker appointee controlled state agency (miracle definitely needed to keep that complaint out the garbage can).  

Until then, Wisconsin drivers will be at the mercy of the for-profit free market.  What a joke.

Originally posted to Puddytat on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is just one of many ways (8+ / 0-)

    We the People get beat down, day after day.

    stinks

    "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 11:00:34 AM PDT

  •  This just for Milwaukee area? (4+ / 0-)

    I live just outside of Madison, and I've never had to get an emmisions test.  I've lived here since '94.

  •  Ran across this phrase in another diary (5+ / 0-)

    I think about Caterpillar and the union.

      ". . .bad policy instituted  by purchased politicians."

     So sorry it's happening in Wisconsin.

    Democrats - We represent America!

    by phonegery on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 11:14:05 AM PDT

  •  Not that Government provided services are always (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat, Emmy, ColoTim, a2nite, JVolvo

    'top of the mark' in the service they provide. Every instance of privatization, that I've personally experianced, has resulted in more cost for less service.

    Fuck me! He made it. Will Scarlet

    by dagolfnut on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 11:37:53 AM PDT

    •  This isn't the usual privatization (6+ / 0-)

      It's funnelling people into con men on a mandatory basis.  And, for even more outrage, the contracting corporation keeps the majority of the state payments for services rendered by others.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 11:43:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Same as it ever was, eh. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Puddytat, ColoTim, JVolvo

        Some years ago MI privatized Drivers License testing. Living in a rural part of the state we had 2 or 3 certified testers available for us to use. A couple of years after my yougest earned his license we learned that one of the local testers available to us had been decertified. It seems he had an unusually high rate of first time test failures. If one failed to pass his subjective driving test, one had to pay again for subsequent tests. A pretty nice little racket he had going. I'm sorry to hear nothing has changed.

        Fuck me! He made it. Will Scarlet

        by dagolfnut on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 12:23:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  the previous system was also privatized (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DrCoyle65, JVolvo, Puddytat

      A private company operated the testing facilities.  These facilities sole purpose was to perform the testing.  The new system has the testing done by people that have a financial interest in repairing your vehicle.  At $2 per test, even with a steady stream of cars all day long, they aren't going to recover their costs if they have to dedicate a service bay and and employee to the testing.  The only reason a shop would provide this service is so they can try to sell services to people who are there for testing.  And specifically, they have, more or less, captive customers in people who fail the test and are probably given a repair quote without even asking for one.

      •  Bingo (0+ / 0-)

        There needs to be seperation between the testing facility and repair shop.  I'd prefer the state to run it themselves with state employees rather than a for-profit corporation.

        There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

        by Puddytat on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 10:40:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Please don't give up on the BBB, ... (7+ / 0-)

    .... Puddytat. They aren't good at enforcement, but they are good at reporting and keeping records. I bet that if more people reported the defraudsters, you'd have even more than the 5 Wisconsin companies with an "F" and the other with a "D."

    As it is, seeing that Wisconsin has licensed 5 or 6 businesess that have failing business grades was important to the Journal Sentinel article.

    P.S. Now the MJS decides to report things? Oy! Great job, Puddytat -- as usual!

    I would tip you, but the man took away my tips.

    by Tortmaster on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 11:43:26 AM PDT

    •  My problem with the BBB is that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cassandracarolina, ColoTim

      they have done nothing much in the past and even their A+ businesses are often horrid as my own personal experience attests.  It is because of this failing that for-profit services like Angies List thrive.

      In the case of scamming that 82 year old woman, the business had an A+ rating with the BBB.  They were ready to make a fast $2000 on that elderly woman until her son intervened.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 11:47:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  how many of those with failing grades (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Puddytat, Emmy

      were members of the BBB?

  •  Any evidence of fraudulent tests? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, Puddytat

    This seems like a real big invitation not only to hard sells but also to fraud.

    Male, 22, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02, remorseless supporter of Walker's recall. Pocan for Congress and Baldwin for Senate!

    by fearlessfred14 on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 11:52:05 AM PDT

  •  I question the failure rate of a 2007 malibu (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat, JVolvo

    my 2006 malibu ss was just tested this year and passed with flying colors. 2007 ie a 5 year old car.
    What is she? A little ol lady from pasadena.

    •  Elderly women especially, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JVolvo

      women in general are often the targets of repair con men.  I, too, question the failure of a less than 10 year old well maintained vehicle.

      Even my old car - a 20 year old Geo Prizm - passed the tests every time.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 12:17:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This will eventually bite the Republicans (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat

    A lot of people didn't care about the state workers' unions or Badger Care or mining up north or voter ID laws because it wouldn't affect them personally. But now Fitzwalkerstan has come for them, and many won't be happy.

    •  That would be great except that (4+ / 0-)

      the media isn't pointing out the Walker connection via the new state contract.  More likely it will be the federal government that they'll blame because of the federal testing mandate for the area.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 12:18:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I live in a rural area of Illinois... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Puddytat

        ...so the truck, specifically, a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado 2WD regular cab, that my parents drive (yes, I still live with my parents despite the fact that I'm 22 years old.) doesn't have to be emissions tested. I'm not sure what counties in Illinois, if any, require automotive emissions testing, nor have I heard any stories of people being scammed in Illinois.

        Joe Lieberman, Mike Madigan, Andrew Cuomo, and Tim Cullen...why are they Democrats?

        by DownstateDemocrat on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 07:23:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mostly counties around Chicago require it (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Puddytat, DownstateDemocrat

          Namely Cook, DuPage, Lake, and the suburban parts of Kane, Kendall, McHenry, Will. In addition, the St. Louis suburban counties of Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair require it. However, Illinois does not farm out testing to auto repair businesses as Wisconsin now does. Either the person who thought this one up was really, really naive or (more likely) they somehow benefit from the scam.

          Male, 22, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02, remorseless supporter of Walker's recall. Pocan for Congress and Baldwin for Senate!

          by fearlessfred14 on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 11:26:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm from Vermilion County, Illinois... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Puddytat

            ...which is a mostly rural county in east central Illinois with one medium-sized city, Danville, several small towns, and a few coal-mining regions.

            Fred, I'm almost certain that whoever came up with the idea to farm out Wisconsin emissions testing to auto repair businesses probably owns one or more auto repair businesses, and would financially benefit from such a scheme.

            Of course, Republicans might turn around and claim that Tammy Baldwin supports gay marriage because Lori Compas owns a wedding photography studio that would financially benefit from a federal constitutional amendment legalizing gay marriage. That argument wouldn't work for several reasons: the only connection between Baldwin and Compas that I am aware of is that Baldwin did GOTV work for Compas during the SD-13 recall, also, Compas herself never took a stance on LGBT issues during her campaign, additionally, Baldwin herself would probably be offended by such a claim given the fact the Baldwin is openly lesbian.

            Joe Lieberman, Mike Madigan, Andrew Cuomo, and Tim Cullen...why are they Democrats?

            by DownstateDemocrat on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 11:57:23 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't think they'd even bring up Compas there (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DownstateDemocrat, Puddytat

              and, in fact, they would not have to "claim" that Baldwin supports gay marriage. It's pretty widely known that she does, and people who don't know will assume it because she is openly lesbian. They'll probably leave the homophobia to their whispering campaign to avoid turning off swing voters.

              Male, 22, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02, remorseless supporter of Walker's recall. Pocan for Congress and Baldwin for Senate!

              by fearlessfred14 on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 02:55:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I wonder if trying to tie Baldwin to Compas... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Puddytat

                ...would backfire on Republicans. Although Compas probably doesn't have any intention on running for public office again (she did tweet a few weeks ago that forcing Big Fitz to run in a recall election in order for him to keep his job was "easy" compared to what Compas was planning on doing, although Compas herself did not elaborate on what her future plans are), I don't think Wisconsin Republicans would want to give Compas any statewide name recognition in the event Compas decides to run a statewide campaign in Wisconsin sometime in the future.

                Also, it would be perceived as questioning Baldwin's sexual orientation despite the fact she is openly lesbian, and Baldwin would probably be offended because of that.

                Wisconsin Republicans love to run dirty campaigns, however, I don't think they're going to do anything that would backfire on them. Fred Davis, who has been known to produce ads for GOP candidates that have backfired massively, is working for Pat McCrory's NC-Gov campaign after Michigan Republicans ran Davis out of that state after producing a racist ad for Pete Hoekstra's MI-Sen campaign.

                Joe Lieberman, Mike Madigan, Andrew Cuomo, and Tim Cullen...why are they Democrats?

                by DownstateDemocrat on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 06:28:20 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  No it won't; they have the Dems to blame (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Puddytat

      The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

      by a2nite on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 02:30:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unfortunately it seems now that scams are (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Puddytat, JVolvo

    considered a legitimate form of doing business.  That kind of shit is why I picked up my own bluetooth code reader so I could check all that myself.  Well worth the $100 ($90 for the unit, $5 for the Torque Pro Android software) I spent on it.

    There is no saving throw against stupid.

    by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 02:11:24 PM PDT

  •  California has gone the other way... (4+ / 0-)

    having changed from test / repair shops to testing only shops a few years ago. Makes much more sense.

    All the technicians the Journal Sentinel spoke to said they couldn't alter or tamper with the results of the tests.
    This is probably total horse $hit. In California, obtaining a "smog check certification" involves visual inspection of emission control system, a check of any on-board vehicle computer controls, as well as measurements of actual emissions with the vehicle running on a dynamometer at low and high RPM's. I don't know what the protocol for Wisconsin testing is, but there are likely several ways to "fudge" results.

    Privatization of services = For Profit services.

    Thanks for sharing this sad example of the how such models are flawed...


    I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

    by The Angry Architect on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 02:33:55 PM PDT

    •  Exactly right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Throw The Bums Out

      Why else, outside of tampering, would the average failure rate jump by 3 percentage points in 2 weeks?  The "for profit" motive, particularly when a motorist forgets about the emission test and gets it done just before renewal, is too tempting for these businesses.  The motorist is under the gun to get their license plate renewed so it can be driven and at the mercy of the con artists.

      And WTF is wrong with having repair shops with BBB F and D ratings on the list of state approved emissions testing facilities as well as giving the majority of the state testing funds to the corporation rather than the testing sites themselves.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 02:58:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, it's quite easy to fudge results assuming (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Puddytat

      they use a code reader that connects to a laptop.  In fact, here is how to do it straight from Microsoft!

      There is no saving throw against stupid.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 04:09:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In California (0+ / 0-)

      My car always got the exhaust gases directly sensed.

      In Wisconsin, there's an RS232 connector to the car which interrogates it about the state of the internal sensors (at least when I had it done in May before these changes kicked in).  I'm not sure what happens if your car is too old to provide such a readout: I presume that it might get a tailpipe sensor instead.

      Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

      by GeoffT on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 12:52:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Statistically significant (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat

    5.5 million registered vehicles in Wisconsin, each of which needs an emissions check every 104 weeks, so that should be about 100,000 tests in the first two weeks.

    Just 2 weeks into the change, the average failure rate for emission testing has increased from the previous 6-7% to 9%
    So assuming p = 0.07 is the underlying distribution, √(npq) ~  80 so having 9,000 failures when 7,000 are expected gives a 25σ difference which is rather more than can be explained by chance.

    It's conceivable that there is a seasonal dependency of failure rates or that certain regions are over-represented through early reporting, but rather like the cases against Act 23 the best-placed organization to produce evidence defending the situation (the Walker Administration) has conspicuously failed to do so.

    Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

    by GeoffT on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 12:47:53 PM PDT

    •  They're not failing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DownstateDemocrat

      to do something.  The program is now working as they indended (and the contract is for 5 years).  It's funnelling victims right into the waiting arms of some scammers.

      Their response to the incredible increase in the failure rate was the typical GOP "the market will take care of itself" BS.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 10:46:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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