Christofferson: State should privatize more services

Jul 18 2013 - 11:39pm


SALT LAKE CITY -- A lawmaker says the state should look at potentially privatizing more services, as the threat of a loss of federal funding looms.

Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, told a legislative committee Wednesday that privatization of some state services should be something lawmakers look at closely. He worries a potential loss of federal funding for state programs will negatively affect residents. He said he is crafting legislation for the 2014 session addressing that possibility.

Christofferson said the state's Department of Transportation already uses private contractors and hires out work to consulting engineers. He said there are a lot of state services that could be done better at the private level,

The Republican lawmaker said the role of government is to step back occasionally and look at the services it offers, especially if those services compete against citizens in the private sector.

"Can you imagine what it would be like to go into the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and have someone there motivated to keep their customers coming?" Christofferson said.

Approximately 40 percent of funding for programs at the state level comes from the federal government, and sequestration and the threat of more federal cutbacks has some lawmakers anticipating things will only get worse.

State lawmakers have already formed a group looking at the issue. The Free Market and Privatization Board also made a presentation to the committee talking about its efforts. That effort left people on both sides of the privatization issue unsatisfied.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, asked about funding for the state organization and was told there is an allocation of $200,000 for the group. He suggested the group should privatize its own efforts rather than count on state funding.

Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, said he is flabbergasted that a privatization board has met five times and has no concrete recommendations for state lawmakers, after those proceedings.

"I would say that board is derelict in its duty, and perhaps the Legislature needs to ... supplement that inaction," Boyack said.

Not everyone is buying into the concept that the private sector does it better.

Claire Geddes, a self-described public watchdog, said there are some things government does better than the private sector. She said there is a downside to the idea everyone should be privatized. Geddes said attempts to privatize post-war work in Iraq proved unsuccessful, and she stressed that most people want the government to administer Medicare, not a private group.

"I hope you take time to look at things more carefully about what the free market should be into and what government should do," Geddes sai

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