As reported by nj.com, Democrats are pushing back against Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to privatize some state government functions by calling for a change in the state constitution to put a short leash on agencies that want to hire private firms.
Under a plan discussed in the Assembly State Government Committee, state and local government agencies would not be able to spend more than $250,000 on a contract with a private company for services government already provides, unless they can show it would save money without creating new fees or fare hikes, and will not reduce quality. Companies would have to give the employees the same pay and benefits as government workers with similar jobs. Unions would have a chance to review the agency’s cost estimates and propose their own cost-saving measures. Contractors would also have to offer available jobs and help to laid off public employees.
“I don’t believe (privatization) should be done just on the backs of union employees by taking livable wages and decimating them to minimum wage so the wealth flows up to the top again,” said Assembly State Government Committee Chairwoman Linda Stender. Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts called the resolution “bad legislation” that would “enshrine a special interest giveaway in the New Jersey Constitution.”
A Christie administration task force last year recommended privatizing functions like health care for prison inmates, toll collections, state parks, highway rest stops and career centers for the unemployed. The task force estimated the state government could save $210 million through the changes. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority recently put out a request for proposals that calls for toll collectors to make $12 per hour, less than half what experienced employees now make. Democrats said they were trying to abuse and waste that occurred in the 1990s with the privatization of vehicle inspections and the installation of the E-ZPass toll system.
The Committee did not vote on the resolution to amend the constitution. But lawmakers have the power to put it on the ballot this fall without any action from the governor, if they get 24 of 40 votes in the Senate and 48 of 80 in the Assembly. Democrats hold 24 seats in the Senate; 47 in the Assembly. The resolution was opposed by business advocacy and championed by organized labor.
Union officials said the quality of services would decline under the private sector. “The bottom line is profit. Profit at all costs,” said Ray Stever, president of the New Jersey State Industrial Union Council. “Their point is to come in here and use our taxpayer dollars to line their pockets.”
Please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain updates regarding any and all efforts to privatize government functions. It goes without saying that such an attempt will have a direct impact on public employees, to include New Jersey Public Safety Employees.