Bond-raters told TN ‘looking ahead’ to outsourcing

While Gov. Bill Haslam says he has not decided whether to outsource management of more state-owned buildings, a document used this month in presentations to New York bond-rating agencies specifically cites the controversial initiative, reports the Times-Free Press.

In their Oct. 9-10 pitch to Wall Street experts reviewing the state’s financial picture in advance of Tennessee issuing new bonds, the Republican governor and top state officials relied on a 63-page PowerPoint document.

A one-page section called “Looking Ahead” cites two specific initiatives “to reduce costs and improve productivity.”
One is energy management. The other is “Facilities Management Outsourcing.” That’s the proposal now generating a ruckus among state government and higher education workers as well as many Democratic and some Republican legislators.

Haslam spokesman David Smith said Friday the PowerPoint’s mention of outsourcing is not at odds with what Haslam told reporters Wednesday as the administration continues to walk back a confidential timetable.

First reported by Nashville’s WTVF-TV last month, the timetable cited a July 1 date for outsourcing facility management and operations of most state-owned property, including colleges, state parks, prisons and more.

The governor and administration officials are adamant no decision has been made.

“I don’t know how we can say that any more clearly,” Haslam chided reporters last week when they asked about the controversial plan. “We’ve said that 10 times, that it is not decided yet.”
…Asked about the PowerPoint page, Smith said it “is not at variance with what the governor is saying.”

“At these [presentations] one of the questions you’re going to get is, and I’m paraphrasing: ‘You’ve cut expenses, are you out of ideas?'” Smith said in an email. “And these are noted as some of the things we’re looking at as we continually look for ways to reduce costs and increase productivity.”

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, was surprised when shown the PowerPoint page.

“It’s pretty clear there,” Fitzhugh said in an interview. “It doesn’t say investigate. It doesn’t say continue to look at it. What’s going on? When you look at that statement in conjunction with everything that seems to be going on I don’t see any indication that it’s just an investigation. It looks like all signs point to all speed ahead.”… Still, Fitzhugh noted, he had made similar rounds of bond-rating firms with former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.

“It’s one of those where you try to put your best foot forward in talking with the bond agencies,” Fitzhugh said. “I guess they thought at least for that purpose that was the thing to do.”

The copy of the state’s presentation provided to the Times Free Press does have a legal disclaimer. It says in part that the information “is dated as of its date and is subject to correction.”