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Orange County Voices : COUNTY IN BANKRUPTCY : Operative Word for Orange County Government Is Privatize : Many services can be made more efficient and also result in substantial savings for the beleaguered taxpayers.

<i> Thomas G. Reinecke is vice chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County</i>

As bad as a $2-billion disaster is, continuing our oversized, bureaucratic county government will make the problem worse. It’s time to make lemonade out of sour Citron. It’s time to privatize Orange County government.

With 18,000 workers, Orange County government is one of the largest employers in Orange County. Despite a recession and budget crisis that was already bad a couple years ago, the county waited until this year’s thundering wake-up call to get serious and discuss privatization of county services.

The only thing stopping the county from full privatization now is a state law prohibiting our “general law” county from contracting out public services to private companies.

As a candidate last year for state Assembly in the 70th District, I supported the reduction and privatization of government. Had I been elected, the first thing I would have done would have been to reintroduce the bill allowing “general law” counties, such as Orange County, the same latitude and power to privatize as “charter” counties in the state.

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Los Angeles County is an excellent example of the kinds of savings available to charter counties. Between 1979 and 1990, Los Angeles County transferred 5,000 jobs (out of a total 85,000) over to the more efficient private sector at an average savings of more than $10,000 per job or $53 million in savings per year. However, the Reason Foundation estimates that at least $100 million in additional savings is possible in Los Angeles County if it would privatize garbage collection and other government services.

In fact, Reason’s prophetic November report warned that over the years Los Angeles County was becoming “fat, dumb and happy” and on the edge of a “financial precipice” due to it’s ever-increasing size of government.

Too bad the Reason Report couldn’t have been aimed our way in Orange County.

Auditing, custodial services, landfill equipment operation, fleet maintenance, paramedics and child-support administration are just a few of the activities that could be immediately and more efficiently run by private companies.

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No government service is too sacred to be outside the realm of consideration for privatization.

Even Orange County’s jails and detention facilities could be privately built, owned and run. There are several states already using private jails, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

According to Forbes Magazine, publicly traded companies such as the Esmore Corp. are successfully building and operating prisons, detention facilities and juvenile boot camps that cost the taxpayers 15% less than government run equivalents. A 15% savings of our Orange County budget would be a savings of $450 million per year to Orange County taxpayers.

Furthermore, once privatized, government agencies and departments would be less likely to face the kind of financial coercion currently used to force them to justify their existence.

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In the past, government activities were threatened with the loss of future funding unless they expended their entire budget, and more often than not, requested increased funding.

However, in the real world, private, free-market businesses strive to provide the highest quality services or products while controlling costs and expenses. The result of privatization of government services would be a true reinvention of government, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

For years we’ve heard politicians speak about “cutting government,” “eliminating bureaucracy,” and “reducing over-regulation.”

Now is the time when their actions will speak louder than words.

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For if government is to run like a business, we must give government to business to run.


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