As reported last week, a union-led challenge to Washington State’s competitive contracting rules was upheld in a state appeals court last week, and now it’s back to square one on rule-making. The Olympian was spot-on in an editorial yesterday with its assessment of the situation:
It’s time for state government officials to – finally – get serious about contracting out state government services to the private sector.
The latest state revenue forecast cuts another $238 million hole in state revenue projections. Coupled with previous downturns in the forecast and rising demand for state services, the deficit for the 2009-11 state budget could be closer to $1 billion.
Given that bleak forecast, it’s imperative that state officials find ways to cut expenses. One path is to reduce the state work force by contracting state services to private vendors. […]
It’s imperative that new rules be adopted quickly so state government officials can get serious about contracting out state services. Yes, that’s a threat to state workers, but they have the right to compete for the job along with the private sector. That’s what lawmakers intended when they passed the reform legislation in 2002. A seven-year delay in getting a contracting out program fully in place is ridiculous.
I certainly agree with that sentiment, but I wouldn’t stop there. As I wrote last week, policymakers need to revisit the competitive contracting statutory provisions themselves to fully divorce competitive contracting from the collective bargaining process. And they need to create a competitive contracting council to create some tension in the system to kick-start the process, because left to their own devices agency directors and managers have proven unwilling to bring ideas to the table themselves.