Opinion

Why do states compete with private companies?

If Washington state could provide government services at a lower cost, it would, right?

That only makes sense given the state budget deficit and the faltering economy.

Unfortunately, the state doesn’t appear to be taking advantage of civil service reforms allowing for competitive contracting — that is, private companies competing with public agencies for the ability to provide services.

This is especially mystifying in light of the fact that other governments around the nation have been successful with competitive contracting.

If done right, competitive contracting saves taxpayers money by introducing competition and rewarding cost savings.

This fosters efficiency and quality by allowing state agencies to draw from a specialized and virtually limitless talent pool.

Even so, competitive contracting in Washington state keeps running into the two C’s — complexity and collective bargaining.

Agency managers often perceive the process as complicated and confusing, waiting to see how other agencies fare before moving forward into competitive contracting.

It should not be difficult for the state to use a simple “Yellow Pages test” when considering whether to open a government service to competition.

If experienced companies that do the same work can be found in the local phone book, they should be invited to make a competitive bid.

Odds are good they can offer identical or improved service at a lower price.

Eric Lohnes is an analyst for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

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