Administration responds to legislators’ outsourcing critique; author not impressed

State Finance Commissioner Larry Martin says he was surprised that 20 legislators wrote a letter criticizing Gov. Bill Haslam’s privatization plans without first talking things over with the administration and that their criticism involved “possible misinformation,” reports The Tennessean.

The legislators (17 Republicans, 3 Democrats) sent a letter to University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro on Jan. 13, getting a fair amount of state media attention. (Previous post HERE.) Martin wrote a six-page letter in response last week.

“Given our past discussion on this effort, I was surprised an opportunity to respond to any concerns you have was not afforded to my office,” Martin wrote. “In an effort to assist in this regard, statements from your letter and further clarification are provided below.”

… Throughout his response, Martin touted what he said were markers of success in the early phase of privatizing state work, including millions of dollars in savings and national awards. He said Tennessee “is considered an innovator among state governments in the area of facility management outsourcing,” and suggested that expanding the effort would improve services on campus.

Martin said universities could privatize facilities management and still maintain autonomy and flexibility. He also said that “strict language” would ensure that state employees could transition to work at the private companies, “including total equitable compensation, education, and health insurance benefits.”

But state Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, who wrote the original letter and invited other lawmakers to add their names, said Martin’s response did little to dispel his concerns. Briggs noted that many of Martin’s points were similar to ones he presented during legislative hearings on the outsourcing plan last year.

“To me it wasn’t anything new,” Briggs said. “They just reiterated the same message that they had given us last year.”

… Briggs said he planned to meet with Martin next week to discuss outsourcing in more detail, but he doubted the conversation would change his mind. He said his criticism of the proposal was motivated in part by the presidential election, when messages tailored to working-class voters powered the candidacies of Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump.

Workers and their advocates in Tennessee have generally been critical of the governor’s plan.

“That’s part of my stand. The election was a wake-up call for me,” Briggs said. “We need to start listening to these people.”

4 Responses to Administration responds to legislators’ outsourcing critique; author not impressed

  • Linda says:

    Legislators really don’t care whether they save taxpayers’ money by doing things better. They only care about the votes in their district.

  • Michael Combs says:

    Don’t confuse our legislators with the facts – especially Rep Briggs. What happened to keeping an open mind and studying ALL the facts BEFORE taking action?
    I trust Larry Martin to put together all the accurate facts about outsourcing.

  • Hazel Thornton says:

    It’s troubling that government transparency is so often sacrificed during the outsourcing process. Sure, we’re saving money in the TN budget, but as citizens we should know how the money is being saved. The Sunshine Laws should apply, even during outsourcing, to ensure that state standards are being met.

  • Bruce williams says:

    Well , will wonders never cease ? I find myself agreeing with Richard Briggs for
    The first time ever! But since Haslam money put him in office , this is probably
    A ruse to confuse the voters of the 7th district who that seat represents ! We will
    See if he hangs tough or conforms to gov’s wish .

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