Corbett Plan Calling For Privatizing Services

Eric Boehm
PA Independent

The Corbett administration wants more government operations privatized to save money in the 2012-13 budget cycle.

This directive was included in budget guidelines the administration released in August to help departments prepare for next year’s budget.

“If a product or service that state government is currently providing can be found in the Yellow Pages and can be done less expensively by the private sector, then the commonwealth should consider offering that product or service in a different manner,” reads a portion of the guidelines.

Through the guidelines, the administration advises departments to assess responsibilities and functions with the goal of identifying potential opportunities for outsourcing and privatization. Gov. Tom Corbett also has formed a commission to study potential privatization opportunities; the commission will meet for the first time in a few weeks.

Advocates of smaller government said the state should privatize some jobs in state prisons, health services and information technology, because buying those services from the private sector is more cost effective.

“For a long time, state government has operated without asking very basic questions about what government should be doing,” said Matt Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg-based conservative think tank. “The governor is rightfully saying that we’re not raising taxes, so we have to look at efficiencies and how to get government out of what the private sector can do more efficiently.”

Brouillette said privatization is only one form of outsourcing the administration could consider. Public-private partnerships, in which the state continues to own a service, but contracts with the private sector for the operation, is another option.

Such an arrangement could be considered for state parks and mass transit systems, he said. The Commonwealth Foundation released a guide on “Yellow Pages Government” earlier this year.

Stephen Herzenberg, an economist with the Keystone Research Center, a Harrisburg-based liberal think tank, said privatization should be considered in situations where there are cost efficiencies in the private sector, and not simply to back up the philosophical positions of the Corbett administration.

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