It's time to drop campus outsourcing plans

Johnson City Press • Sep 13, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Officials with Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration told Tennessee lawmakers last month the governor plans to let his successor decide if outsourcing management of state parks is the right thing to do.

Haslam, who is prohibited by the state Constitution from seeking a third term next year, has seen pushback from members of the General Assembly for his privatization plans.

Legislators opposed to outsourcing applauded Haslam’s decision and have called on him to do the same for his plans to privatize custodial jobs on the campuses of state colleges and universities. These lawmakers have a valid point.

Haslam has simply failed to sell the General Assembly and the public on his privatization plans. Maybe the next governor will have a better chance of convincing voters and lawmakers of the merits of outsourcing. Truthfully, we don’t see Haslam’s successor faring any better on this topic.

Earlier this year, state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, was among a group of legislators who signed a letter to the president of the University of Tennessee expressing concern over a plan to outsource campus jobs. Lawmakers noted that outsourcing maintenance and custodial jobs on UT campuses could be detrimental to local economies and damage overall employee morale in the system.

Officials with Haslam’s administration said in November that a proposal to outsource jobs on college campuses in Tennessee would proceed after a second report found the strategy could save more than $35 million per year. Critics of the governor’s plan, however, have questioned the validity of those projected savings.

In addition, the report fails to take into consideration the lasting negative impact outsourcing these jobs would have on some of the most economically stressed communities in Tennessee.

“Savings may be seen on the front end, but the state loses the trickle down effect on the local economy as well as the resulting tax revenue returning back to the state,” state lawmakers said in their letter to UT President Joe DiPietro in January. “The same can be said of the profits that leave the state with the contracting national company.”

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