New Jersey creates ‘privatisation task force’

A five-member panel will deliver a report on 31 May that will identify government functions appropriate for privatisation, as part of an effort to pare down the state’s $10.7bn budget deficit.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has created a Privatisation Task Force to develop recommendations for converting part of the state government’s operations into privately-run enterprises, in an effort to help close a $10.7 billion budget deficit, the largest in the state’s history.

“Delivering programs and services to our citizens is government’s primary job,” Christie said in a statement, “but I have asked the Task Force to look for places where we can do this in a more efficient, cost-effective way by having the private sector do it.”

Among other things, the task force will identify government functions appropriate for privatisation, the legal and practical impediments to privatisation and ways to ensure that the scope and quality of government services are not “inappropriately diminished” by such moves.

Christie said he was motivated to create the task force by the flurry of “ill-timed contractual obligations” that threaten to weigh down the state’s budget in 2011. Among these is an escalation of wages for thousands of public employees by 7 percent to 11 percent.

“I don’t think you will find private sector employees anywhere enjoying the luxury of an 11 percent raise next year. It was a promise that the state cannot afford and should never have made in the first place,” Christie said in the statement.

His force will be chaired by former New Jersey Congressman Dick Zimmer and will include four other members from the public and private sector: Todd Caliguire, the president of a paper distribution company, Kathleen Davis, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, John Galandak, president of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey and former Summit, New Jersey Councilwoman Kelly Hatfield.

They are to serve on the task force without compensation and will issue their final report on 31 May. The task force will be dissolved once the final report is issued.

Christie, a Republican, began his first term as New Jersey governor earlier this year after defeating Democrat Jon Corzine in November’s gubernatorial election.