June 14, 2005


A Cold Florida: The Gov's "Drive to Excellence": A push to privatize/outsource state services? (Mike Mosedale, 6/14/05, City Pages)

On April 4, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced the first component of a major structural reorganization of the state government--the creation of a cabinet-level agency called the Office of Enterprise Technology. The agency, Pawlenty promised, would help make government faster and more efficient. At face value, there seemed little to be skeptical about. After all, just about everyone agrees that a smarter use of technology can improve government services. What better way to accomplish that than by a technology czar?

But after reviewing the proposed legislation that accompanied the announcement, Jim Monroe, the executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, started to have some doubts. Among other things, Monroe noticed language embedded in the bill stipulating that new hires at the Office of Enterprise Technology would be "non-classified" and therefore serve "at the pleasure" of the agency chief. Translation: The new agency's employees would not be afforded the usual civil service protections enjoyed by their union fellows.

Immediately, Monroe--along with his counterparts at the other big state workers' union, AFSCME Council 5--demanded that the anti-union language be removed from the bill. Facing the prospect of an ugly fight that could derail the legislation, sponsors removed the provision. According to Dana Badgerow, the commissioner of the Department of Administration, the anti-union language was "a mistake" which was inserted by a staffer unfamiliar with labor relations. Monroe says the episode left him increasingly concerned about the motivations behind the creation of the new agency, along with the rest of Pawlenty's ambitious "Drive to Excellence" government reform effort.

"We're going to be watching this very closely to see if this is going to be used as an excuse to outsource, because it appears that this is a precursor to some rather substantial layoffs," Monroe says. "There's clearly an agenda here. They do not hide the fact that they think there are services that they think they can subcontract out." Jo Pels, the state field director for AFSCME Council 5, agrees: "The bottom line is that we're going to lose state jobs and that's going to hurt customer service. As far as I can see, the Drive to Excellence is really a drive to exterminate state employees."

After hearing an official presentation on the Drive to Excellence, one private consultant who works on technology security for the state says he and his fellow vendors quickly came up with a different name for the project: the Drive to Outsourcing.

If Governor Pawlenty takes on public service unions and wins he'll be a hero in the Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2005 7:30 PM

"If Governor Pawlenty takes on public service unions and wins he'll be a hero in the Party."

He won't and he will not be.

Posted by: Bartelson at June 14, 2005 7:45 PM

Gov. Schwarzenegger here in CA is also fighting public employee unions. Seems to be a trend coming to a head -- ?

Posted by: gwalsh at June 14, 2005 8:07 PM

Conservative Republican voters here in MN are pretty disappointed with Pawlenty. He supports taxpayer-subsidized stadiums, and he wants to expand casino gambling so that the state can compete with the Indians. He also has taken to calling taxes "fees" so that he can pretend to make good on his "no new taxes" pledge.

Posted by: ted welter at June 14, 2005 11:34 PM

Ted, don't forget about his plan to import cheap drugs from Canada.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 15, 2005 8:11 PM