Commentary

New at Reason: IT Controversy Shouldn’t Spoil Public-Private Partnerships in Virginia

In my latest column, I write that the controversy over the Virginia Information Technology Authority’s handling of its ten year, $2.3 billion IT contract with Northrup Grumman should not curb Virginia’s desire to engage in public-private partnerships (PPPs). Commonwealth policymakers should recognize that challenges occur and focus on fixing problems, not politicizing them. Here’s an excerpt:

…Virginia’s had a long history with successful PPPs and is widely recognized as a state leader. State officials recognize by now that PPPs come in all shapes and sizes. An IT modernization project is a lot different than a toll road partnership, which is in turn a lot different from a partnership to modernize a state psychiatric hospital. Virginia’s undertaken these and many other types of PPPs over the last two decades.

Commonwealth policymakers should have a sophisticated enough understanding by now of the nuances and varieties of PPPs, recognizing that there is no cookie-cutter template. Each PPP is a unique vehicle structured to achieve a set of specific goals, and each type of contract has to be carefully constructed and monitored to ensure that both the state and their private sector partners deliver on their commitments. And if you run into a situation where one party or the other fails to deliver, then you remember that it’s a partnership, where the parties work to resolve implementation issues.

Read on for a look at how other states have handled similar controversies. The key for policymakers is to tune out the politics and stay focused on understanding and resolving the implementation challenges.

For more on Virginia’s IT contract, see here and here.

Leonard Gilroy is Senior Managing Director of the Pension Integrity Project at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. The Pension Integrity Project assists policymakers and other stakeholders in designing, analyzing and implementing public sector pension reforms.

The project aims to promote solvent, sustainable retirement systems that provide retirement security for government workers while reducing taxpayer and pension system exposure to financial risk and reducing long-term costs for employers/taxpayers and employees. The project team provides education, reform policy options, and actuarial analysis for policymakers and stakeholders to help them design reform proposals that are practical and viable.

In 2016 and 2017, Reason's Pension Integrity Project helped design, negotiate and draft pension reforms for the state of Arizona's Public Safety Personnel Retirement System and Corrections Officer Retirement Plan, which both passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the state legislature and were signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Gilroy is also the Director of Government Reform at Reason Foundation, researching privatization, public-private partnerships, infrastructure and urban policy issues.

Gilroy has a diversified background in policy research and implementation, with particular emphases on competition, government efficiency, transparency, accountability, and government performance. Gilroy has worked closely with legislators and elected officials in Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, California and several other states and local governments in efforts to design and implement market-based policy approaches, improve government performance, enhance accountability in government programs, and reduce government spending.

In 2010 and 2011, Gilroy served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Arizona Commission on Privatization and Efficiency, and in 2010 he served as an advisor to the New Jersey Privatization Task Force, created by Gov. Chris Christie.

Gilroy is the editor of the widely-read Annual Privatization Report, which examines trends and chronicles the experiences of local, state, and federal governments in bringing competition to public services. Gilroy also edits Reason's Innovators in Action interview series, which profiles public sector innovators in their own words, including former U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and more.

Gilroy's articles have been featured in such leading publications as The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The Weekly Standard, Washington Times, Houston Chronicle, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Arizona Republic, San Francisco Examiner, San Diego Union-Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sacramento Bee and The Salt Lake Tribune. He has also appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business, CNBC, National Public Radio and other media outlets.

Prior to joining Reason, Gilroy was a senior planner at a Louisiana-based urban planning consulting firm. He also worked as a research assistant at the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech. Gilroy earned a B.A. and M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech.