News & Events

Privatization debate (MS)

GLOBE COLUMNIST Scot Lehigh has renewed efforts to stir up controversy at the expense of public workers and their unions ("Reforms that lead to big savings," Op-ed, May 15). Lehigh calls for a repeal of Massachusetts’ law that protects taxpayers from faulty privatization schemes. He is willing to "dig deeper" into his own pockets to protect vital public services, but he wants meaningful reforms first. But his criticism of the state’s Taxpayer Protection Act, commonly referred to as the Pacheco law, fails to explain that the law doesn’t prevent the state from privatizing public services. Rather, it requires proof of cost savings through a review by the state auditor.

We have learned the hard way that privatization proposals rarely examine hidden costs, and private contractors dramatically increase their fees over time. The pattern is: A private vendor secures a lucrative contract with a lowball bid to naive government officials. Then, after the public entity loses the infrastructure to provide the service in house, the private company increases its fees, and taxpayers get stuck with the tab. Meanwhile, public jobs with fair, decent benefits are eliminated and replaced with low-wage jobs with little or no benefits. The only people who benefit are the executives at these private companies who pull down exorbitant salaries.

Robert J. Haynes
Massachusetts AFL-CIO