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It's A Gray Area: Governments need to outsource services

March 26, 2011|By James P. Gray

My Aug. 12, 2007, column recommended that all governments pass sunset laws requiring each of their agencies to receive a positive vote every six or seven years from their legislatures in order to be funded again. The government would abolish the agency if it did not receive a favorable vote.

Sunset laws would allow everyone to see more clearly what each governmental agency had accomplished since its last review period, and what its plans would be for the future. We could see if we were getting sufficient "bang" for our tax buck.

Private companies continually follow these basic Libertarian principles, although less formally, as they monitor their own activities in trying to maximize revenues and reduce expenses. Governments should be forced to do the same, and sunset laws would help significantly.

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Much of the work done by these agencies simply should not be done by governments at all. Instead it should be done by competent companies as successful low-bid contractors with those governments.

The city of Costa Mesa should be applauded for moving in that direction — if somewhat tardily. This is the fiscally responsible thing to do, and other governments should follow Costa Mesa's lead.

Of course, Costa Mesa's actions have had an impact on some good and faithful city employees who have received layoff notices. Our hearts should go out to them, and they should be treated fairly under the law.

But that also happens in the private sector, and most of those employees were doing work that never should have been done by the city in the first place. Why? Because private companies can virtually always do the job as well but for much cheaper.

For example, why should the state have an agency like the California Department of Transportation? Fundamentally, it is silly for the state to own and maintain all those dump trucks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment, and pay the salaries and other benefits of all of those workers. Instead the state should employ a few people to enter into low-bid contracts with qualified private companies, and then supervise the work those companies do.

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