Democratic leaders in the state Senate are pushing a bill that would increase oversight of deals privatizing government services.

The bill will never become law - not as long as Chris Christie, or any other privatization-loving Republican, is governor.

And it is a blatant attempt to curry favor with public-worker unions, which of course lose members and jobs when government services are privatized.

But all that aside, the measure (S770) is sound. Indeed, for the most part, it isn't increasing oversight of privatization deals as much as it is establishing oversight for the first time.

We agree with Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, that "privatization is a solution in search of a problem." (Or, as writer Michael Kinsley puts it, "Privatization cannot work. This is a mathematical certainty, not an opinion.")

But even supporters of privatization should agree that any proposed deal be publicly scrutinized ahead of time, and over the course of the contract, to ensure that any projected cost-savings are real - and don't come as a result of reduced services or increased costs to taxpayers.

And that is what this bill, which is being sponsored Weinberg, Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, and Sen. Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, would do.

Under the measure, a cost analysis demonstrating actual savings would have to be performed and then reviewed by the Office of the State Comptroller.

Last year, the Christie administration privatized aspects of the state lottery, turning over sales and marketing for 15 years to a private company co-owned by GTECH corporation without any public hearing on the supposed savings from the deal. GTECH is represented in New Jersey by Christie crony David Samson (he of recent Port Authority of New York and New Jersey fame); the consortium that won the deal was the lone bidder; and Christie refused to let the state treasurer testify before the Legislature about the details of the deal.

In other words, there was little oversight.

Of course, the benefits of the deal were a $120 million payment upfront to the state and the prospect of fewer state employees.

But if privatization is such a good deal, there is no reason why proponents should not be willing to have these arrangements scrutinized, as the measure being pushed by Senate Democrats would do.


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