Would Tennessee's privatization proposal actually save the state any money?

State employees want independent party to verify any savings from proposed privatization

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at a press conference at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, about record tourism spending numbers in Tennessee. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

NASHVILLE -- A state workers group is calling for Gov. Bill Haslam to put a hold on any privatization efforts until a third party can review any contracts to verify actual cost savings.

Haslam recently took many by surprise when his administration issued a Request for Information proposal from companies on outsourcing facilities management on all state buildings not already covered by a controversial contract with the international real estate management firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

"Once again the Haslam administration wants to sell off state services to a private company, which will result in job losses for state employees," Tennessee State Employees Association President Bryan Merritt said today in a news release. "Before we lay off more workers and relinquish more taxpayer control, maybe we need a third party to study and prove these privatizing efforts are really saving money."

photo FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2015 file photo, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam speaks to reporters in an office suite at the state Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. Haslam is pivoting to another tough fight over what he describes as the ruined brand of Common Core education standards. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

Merritt said "we simply do not believe any company can provide the same level of services, with profit as a motive, and do it at a lesser cost than state employees."

Haslam has said no decision has been made on a new round of outsourcing. But Nashville television station WTVF recently disclosed documents revealing the administration has a timeline that would put a contract in place by Aug. 1, 2016. Information included in any potential proposals would not become public until after the legislature adjourns.

The administration's RFI from potential vendors shows officials are considering outsourcing management of National Guard facilities, prisons, state parks, hospitals, higher education buildings and remaining state buildings.

Since FY10-11, according to the TSEA, figures show 3,311 state employee positions have been eliminated in Tennessee. During that same time period, Tennessee's population has increased by approximately 200,000.

"It seems strange to me, Governor Haslam touts the amount of jobs the administration has created through attracting businesses to Tennessee; meanwhile thousands of state jobs have been eliminated under this administration," Merritt said. "State employees are hardworking people who pay mortgages, buy cars, and send their kids to college."

He said when state workers lose their jobs, "their spendable income is also removed from Tennessee's economy. Jones Lang LaSalle isn't even a Tennessee company."