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Assembly Demos denounce outsourcing

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POSTED April 3, 2014 7:10 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A Democratic resolution denouncing the outsourcing of government functions to private contractors passed the Assembly on Thursday after prompting a spirited partisan debate about the role of government.

The nonbinding, union-sponsored resolution by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, passed on a 42-22 vote. HR29 says the Assembly opposes outsourcing of public services if it harms transparency and competition.

Gomez said his resolution responds to government entities relying too much on private contractors during years of budget cuts and not considering whether public employees could do the work better. Local governments contract out for services that include garbage removal, park maintenance, mental health treatment and urban planning.

Acting at the urging of public employee unions, Democrats said government contractors often pay low wages and shroud the spending of taxpayer money in secrecy.

“You’re moving taxpayer resources more often than not into the hands of the 1 percent, the owners, and who pays? It’s at the expense of good-paying jobs,” said Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina.

Republican lawmakers said the ideas behind the resolution undermine competition and encourage government waste.

“If public employees have a better way, a more efficient way, a more cost-effective way of doing things, we shouldn’t discourage them from speaking up,” said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore. “But we should also not discourage any local government or state government from getting the best services for the best price.”

Gomez questioned the competitiveness of outsourced work when agencies renew contacts year after year without considering alternatives. The resolution says anti-outsourcing legislation will be introduced.

“They shouldn’t look at outsourcing as a panacea for all their financial problems,” Gomez said in an interview after the vote.

The resolution is sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and is backed by other unions. AFSCME California PEOPLE Political and Legislative Director Willie Pelote said the resolution comes as work historically performed by civil servants is being supplanted by a recovering private sector. Nationwide, the public employees’ union has been fighting for bills limiting private contracting.

Business groups and dozens of cities opposed the resolution, saying contracting is an important tool for delivering services with constrained budgets.

The League of California Cities said that while the resolution doesn’t change law, it commits lawmakers to votes on other bills relating to contracting. Spokeswoman Eva Spiegel likened the resolution to pledges taken by Republican lawmakers swearing that they would never vote for tax or fee increases.

Several bills by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, would require state contracts to include performance benchmarks and would create a database of payments to contractors and their wages.

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