Congratulations to the workers and taxpayers in Maryland! Their governor just signed a bill to reduce the risk of contracting failures in the state and ensure a proposed outsourcing effort is truly the most effective option. Maryland had a few existing contracting protections, but HB 158/SB 243 strengthens this process and ensures it is fair and deliberate for taxpayers and workers alike.

A few of the modifications are really important and can serve as a model for other states. State agencies in Maryland have been required to consider alternatives to outsourcing before contracting out a service. Now, the agency must meet with a representative of the affected employees at least 60 days before entering into a contract. Public employees quite often have suggestions and feedback on how to promote efficiency and save taxpayer resources.  Who knows how to improve service delivery better than the men and women who have been doing it for years?

Another important development is the mandate to conduct a legislative audit of contracts of outsourced services. It may sound like a simple idea, but too often cost-overruns and other problems go unnoticed and contracts are extended again and again without proof that the contract is providing value for taxpayers. This additional layer of oversight ensures, people living in Maryland can have faith that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Critically, the legislation signed this week also extended these important protections to the state’s Department of Transportation and the public university system; before this law was signed, those independent personnel systems were exempt from the kind of commonsense measures that strengthen oversight and accountability of the contracting process.

When we developed the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda, we hoped it would help states and cities across the country to do the right thing and reform what is often a rushed and secretive process to privatize government services. In The Public Interest will continue to encourage reforms that ensure public contracts with private entities are transparent, fair, well-managed, and effectively monitored, and that those contracts meet the long-term needs of communities.

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