Push to privatize is on the table

Legislators hear proposal to outsource services

The purveyors of privatization are knocking on the Legislature’s door with promises of cheaper and more efficient operations.

A bill by state Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, is before the Legislature that would set up a special committee to investigate opportunities to outsource or privatize government services.

Kleeb enlisted the help of Adrian Moore, vice president of research at the Reason Foundation, who recently told the House Appropriations Committee that privatization should be considered in nearly all areas of government.

“Privatization is a policy tool that should at least be considered in most instances,” Moore said.

The Reason Foundation is based in Los Angeles and describes itself as a nonprofit think tank with a mission “to advance a free society by developing, applying and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets and the rule of law.” It is not affiliated with any political party.

Moore points to Florida as a state that has succeeded in privatization efforts, with some 550 contracts worth $8 billion.

But Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, says there are numerous examples of states that have regretted privatizing state jobs.

“Privatization is not the answer; again and again it has been proven to be disastrous to taxpayers and critical government services,” she said.

Moore said there certainly are instances where privatization hasn’t worked, but those shouldn’t overshadow other successes.

Some committee members, such as state Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City, embraced Moore’s testimony.

“You had me at hello,” she told him.

But others were skeptical.

State Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, said many of the examples of possible privatization that Moore cited were already privatized in Kansas.