Since joining the Missouri House of Representatives in 2011 and subsequently taking the reins of the Missouri House Downsizing State Government Committee, Missouri State Representative Paul Curtman has set himself apart as an emerging leader on government reform. As part of his efforts to transform the Show-Me State, he has taken a keen interest in modernizing procurement in Missouri in two key ways.
First, he sponsored legislation in 2014 to facilitate “best value” procurement in Missouri. Best value procurement would give the state more discretion in its procurement decisions by allowing officials to consider a wider array of criteria (e.g., quality, vendor experience and qualifications, etc.), rather than simply selecting contractors based on “low bid.” He also sponsored legislation to enable the use of public-private partnerships for the private financing and development of “social infrastructure,” such as higher education facilities, schools, public health facilities and other public buildings. Though neither bill passed in 2014, Rep. Curtman undertook a considerable amount of outreach to legislative colleagues on these issues and plans to pursue similar legislation in the 2015 session.
Earlier this month, Reason Foundation Director of Government Reform Leonard Gilroy interviewed Rep. Curtman on his interest in best value procurement and social infrastructure PPPs, the work of the House Downsizing State Government Committee, and more.
Leonard Gilroy, Reason Foundation: Since 2013, you’ve served as chairman of the House Downsizing State Government Committee. Can you describe the committee’s charge and your goals for its activities?
Missouri State Rep. Paul Curtman: “Downsizing” state government is quite a broad mission. When the committee was first formed, and before I was chairman, its basic charge was to find statutes that could literally be removed because they were obsolete or otherwise unnecessary.
My approach has really been two-fold. First, we want to seek out those bureaucracies or laws that needlessly burden the people. Our governments should cooperate with the people, not compete against them for their time, labor or treasure. Secondly, my approach has been to thoughtfully explore ways the government can run more efficiently. Good government isn’t always about budget cuts; sometimes it’s about making sure taxpayers are getting the best value for their tax dollars.
Gilroy: In the 2014 session, you proposed legislation that aimed to amend Missouri’s procurement laws to provide for best value procurement. What prompted your interest in this issue?
Curtman: I came across an interesting article on Best Value-specifically, the Performance Information Procurement Systems-Best Value (PIPS-BV) model-that appeared to highlight a complete paradigm shift in the way bureaucracies were evaluating bids and awarding contracts. It was the first I’d heard of the idea of “best value” but the concept was appealing. Government doesn’t usually innovate and this seemed to be a departure from that norm.
Gilroy: Are there other governments that have served as a model for you on that issue?
Curtman: From what I’ve learned, there are several governmental units using the PIPS-BV model, even entire countries. Oklahoma has been a go-to example considering their proximity and similar scope of procurement. They have several years of experience utilizing PIPS-BV and have even participated in a policy forum on the topic I held at the University of Missouri recently. The savings realized in Oklahoma are incredibly promising and hopefully inspiring to those within Missouri’s bureaucracy.
Gilroy: In the 2014 session, you also proposed enabling legislation to allow for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the development of “social infrastructure,” meaning a broad array of government buildings. What prompted your interest in social infrastructure PPPs?
Curtman: Missouri is in a similar situation as many other states. We have a billion dollars of deferred maintenance, needs for new facilities on our public higher education campuses, a crumbling state mental health hospital, and plenty of other projects that are on hold, but in demand. We have zero appetite for new taxes, and new debt outlays are equally unpalatable. The PPP concept is one I came across in my research-I believe it may have even been in a Reason Foundation publication-that is both smart and pragmatic in taking advantage of private sector business acumen while protecting taxpayers from risk.
Gilroy: Are there experiences in other states that you find particularly compelling on social infrastructure PPPs?
Curtman: Florida and Virginia are the two examples I often cite when I visit with legislative leaders and other stakeholders. Both have years of combined experience and several projects in which to showcase the value PPPs are affording these states’ respective taxpayers.
Gilroy: Do you plan to bring these issues forward in the next legislative session?
Curtman: I do. I filed the “Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act” (HB 206), which models Virginia and Florida PPP legislation, and House Bill 205 allows for “best value” to be utilized in lieu of “lowest and best” bid. I expect both bills to come before my committee for a vote expeditiously.
Gilroy: Both best value procurement and social infrastructure PPPs are, at a general level, different ways of harnessing the private sector to achieve public sector goals. What’s your general philosophy on how governments and private enterprise can team up to advance the public interest?
Curtman: This is an interesting question to respond to since differing political philosophies might dictate the definition of “public interest.” Generally speaking, however, I’m in favor of mitigating as much taxpayer risk as possible. I believe a tried-and-true method of doing so is to rely on the private sector as much as possible. If a privately held company is doing it better, faster, and otherwise more efficiently, government need not apply.
Gilroy: Are there other types of PPPs that you could foresee addressing in future legislation (e.g., social impact bonds, etc.)?
Curtman: I will continue to advocate for free-market solutions to public problems as long as public problems remain. Social impact bonds are another emerging tool tapping private sector skill sets and leveraging competition in order to reduce demand on limited public dollars. When they work, they are remarkable, and I think Missouri should take note.
Gilroy: Though it’s still early, are there any lessons you’ve learned thus far in how to communicate the value of PPPs to your colleagues in the legislature, as well as constituents?
Curtman: It has been interesting to see what it is about PPPs that piques the interest of legislative stakeholders and the constituency. Of course, many in the legislature and executive branch are intrigued because of the renewed ability to deliver public projects, which in turn aids the private construction, finance, and related markets.
Constituents are most inspired by the overall value appeal. That is, they want to know that when we are spending what really is their money, we’re doing it as carefully and pragmatically as possible. That’s a charge I take very seriously.
The fact that these two interests are intersecting at the same point is what makes this type of proposal so unique and consensus-driven.
Paul R. Curtman is a Missouri State Representative who chairs the House Downsizing State Government Committee and serves on the Joint Committee on Government Accountability, the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Economic Development Committee.
Curtman graduated from Pacific High School in 1999 and subsequently enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving his country as an infantryman with Golf Co., 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines. While stationed in Hawaii, he became a Marine Corps martial arts instructor and was instrumental in teaching infantry Marines hand-to-hand combat. As a Sergeant in the Marines, Rep. Curtman deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After leaving active duty, Rep. Curtman continued his service as a Marines Reservist for six years. During that time, he attended the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Upon graduation, he became licensed as a Series 7 Investment Representative and was employed at a major investment firm.
Rep. Curtman currently lives in Union, Missouri with his wife Ruth, a public school math teacher.
Other articles in Reason Foundation’s Innovators in Action 2014 series are available online here.