Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says his administration is studying ways to deliver government services cheaper and more efficiently, which may include greater reliance on outsourcing and privatization.
“Our responsibility is to provide the very best service at the very lowest cost,” the governor said in an interview with TNReport. “For six and a half million Tennesseans, there is always way more demand for government services than there is our ability to fund those.”
Haslam said his administration has asked private companies to provide proposals for how they might manage or run a range of government services. “We are not saying we’re actually going to do anything differently, but we are asking for information to see who is interested in even making a proposal, so we are a long way from changing anything,” he said.
“As government, we owe it to our people to always be saying, ‘Are we doing it the best way we can?’,” said Haslam, a Republican who served two terms as mayor of Knoxville before winning Tennessee’s highest statewide elected post.
Tennessee Democrats are criticizing Haslam for considering private alternatives to having state employees perform government functions.
“In privatization, what usually happens is a private company comes in and the first thing they do is cut jobs and they cut wages and benefits,” Mary Mancini, the state Democratic Party chairwoman, said in a press conference Aug. 26. “So this is absolutely is about jobs.”
Mancini and Democratic lawmakers, who are vastly outnumbered in both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly, question whether privatization and outsourcing produce tangible and lasting benefits for taxpayers. “Where is the accountability and where are the real-cost savings,” Mancini said in a press release this week.