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Martin defends outsourcing amid tough questions

But Senate committee seems skeptical of savings, need

authors Cari Wade Gervin

With the vendor for one massive outsourcing project expected to be announced in three weeks and another massive outsourcing project at Fall Creek Falls temporarily on hold, state Finance Commissioner Larry Martin faced a tough room on Wednesday as he tried to defend the proposed plans to the Senate Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee.

“We have a responsibility, we have resources to provide services to the most vulnerable of our citizens, and we have a clear responsibility to our taxpayers to spend their money wisely,” Martin said during what he noted was his 16th presentation to the Legislature on the benefits of outsourcing.

But committee chair Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) seemed skeptical of Martin’s claims that outsourcing is good for the state.

“It seems like we’re socializing the risk and privatizing the profit,” Dickerson commented.

Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) also questioned how much of the estimated savings offset the costs of the contracts going to out-of-state companies, asking Martin and Customer Focused Government Director Terry Cowles if they had run the numbers relating to that. The two men did not answer.

Cowles doubled down on claims that the outsourced former state employees will not lose their jobs, even though the RFP for the current facilities management proposal has numerous loopholes to allow that to happen. But he said the cost savings from outsourcing are from bundled purchases by the vendor, not from savings on labor costs.

“If the savings aren’t coming on the labor side, why are we outsourcing the labor?” questioned Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville).

Cowles pointed to the popularity of the new Chick-fil-A in the renovated Tennessee Tower.

“Those aren’t state employees,” Cowles said.

United Campus Workers also spoke at the meeting, as did Randy Stamps, the executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association. Both questioned the secrecy of the process, in which the three vendors bidding for the contract helped write the RFP to which they are replying.

UCW and other opposed to outsourcing are planning a rally at noon today at Legislative Plaza.

Article source: http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/state-government/article/20854436/martin-defends-outsourcing-amid-tough-questions

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