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NJ Privatization Panel Report Pushes Ideology Rather than Facts

Since he took office earlier this year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has waged an ideological war on state employees and programs, and advocated for unsustainable and costly privatization schemes.  Even in light of overwhelming public opposition to privatization and the significant pitfalls associated with these types of initiatives, the Governor established a privatization task force by executive order in early April, seeking to identify $50 million in savings.

The panel, composed of lobbyists, business interests, and pro-privatization advocates, issued its recommendations earlier this month.  The report proposes privatizing programs across the board, including toll booth collections, preschools, state parks, prison food services, bus routes, and car emission inspections.  However, the report's conclusions unabashedly promote conservative ideological desires in place of hard data or rigorous research.  For instance, a recent In The Public Interest article points out:

The report's extravagant cost-saving claims are unsupported by any detailed data (the tables are littered with 'TBD'- cost savings 'to be determined'), and the scarce figures provided raise more questions than they answer... On p.15 the report claims the state can save $3.2 million by privatizing its One Stop Career Centers, then on p. 31 says 'direct state spending' on the program 'is $3.2 million annually.' Are we to believe the private sector will run these centers for free?

The report has been roundly criticized by several sources, from environmental groups to elected officials.  New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney reflects, "[c]ertainly state government needs to operate in a more cost-effective way, but our history with privatization is dotted with instances where we’ve had to go back and spend more just to clean up mistakes.  We cannot rush into privatizing just for privatization’s sake."  The state’s troubled history with privatization is well-documented.  For instance, the state has dealt with the Motor Vehicles Commission distributing contracts to politically connected vendors in the 1980s, millions of dollars wasted on contractors for vehicle inspections, the imprudent implementation of the E-Z Pass toll system that was fraught with high cost and delays due to private contractors, and currently, the mismanagement of over 200 lease agreements and contracts with private vendors operating on public land.

That privatization continues to move forward despite such a poor track record reflects pure ideology that the private market delivers the most efficient outcomes, even without demonstrable results.  As Progressive States Network has previously detailed, legislative action to limit privatization is necessary to safeguard against the loss of accountability and public revenue that these misguided schemes often produce.

Resources:
Food & Water Watch - Has Water Privatization Gone Too Far in New Jersey?
In The Public Interest - NJ Privatization Report Claims Savings without Evidence
The New Jersey Privatization Task Force - Report to Governor Chris Christie
Progressive States Network - Critics Resisting New Jersey Governor's Push for Further Privatization
Progressive States Network - New Jersey Voters Reject Privatization
The Star-Ledger - NJ Environmental Groups Slam State for Mismanaging Private Vendors at State Parks
The Star-Ledger - NJ Democrats Criticize Christie Administration Report Suggesting Privatization