Texas state lawmakers weigh privatization of state services; Texas’ recent track record with privatization gloomy

state Capitol

Even as our state government continues to exceed its wildest expectations for sales tax collection, ushering in the promise of new spending, there are still some starry-eyed dreamers trying to save a buck by taking state services private.

Some of them are members of the House State Affairs and Government Efficiency & Reform committees who met jointly on Wednesday, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal says.

Fortunately, others on the committees and experts were there to tamp down the enthusiasm for efficiency and reform from the outside.

And with good reason. As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, public-private partnerships are a budget gimmick promoted by Democrats like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Newark Mayor Cory Booker in places where government has run out of revenue sources.

In places like Republican-controlled Texas, where bumper sales tax reports are a monthly event, the recent track record of privatizing state services has been dismal.

Earlier this year the state and IBM finally walked away taking heavy losses from an $863 million contract that utterly failed to modernize data services for more than two dozen government agencies.

Three years earlier, the state and Accenture divorced after a nearly $900 million contract to provide Medicaid and food stamp services that was to have saved the state $646 million brought instead nothing but misery to both parties.

Tough to figure out just why the partnerships didn’t work out. IBM, the company that practically invented the computer industry. Accenture, one of the most successful technology services companies in the world. And the state of Texas, which brought us the stimulus weatherization program and driver’s license renewal centers.

Still, some like Talmadge Heflin, the former Houston lawmaker now with the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, say the state should consider giving private enterprise another chance.

“I think the government needs to be more entrepreneurial,” Rep. Jose Menendez, vice-chairman of State Affairs, said toward the end of the hearing.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Menendez is a Democrat.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of Texas state Capitol by flickr user chascar, used via a Creative Commons license.