Kinder urges state to privatize some services

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Missouri state government could save tax dollars by privatizing some services and putting unnecessary projects on hold, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder said Wednesday.

Kinder, a Cape Girardeau Republican, said the Missouri Senate recently hired a private firm to handle janitorial work for its offices in the state capitol.

Kinder said he expects the GOP-dominated legislature next year to look at the possibility of letting private companies handle other government services such as printing and management of the state prisons.

It costs $30 million annually to operate a prison, Kinder said. Bringing in private management could save money, he said in a speech to about 40 members of the Cape Girardeau Lions Club at the Elks Lodge.

Kinder said Gov. Bob Holden's administration could have cut costs by putting on hold a $1 million renovation of the bathrooms on the Senate side of the capitol building. Kinder suggested the delay, but the administration has gone ahead with the project at a cost of $100,000 per toilet.

However, there are signs the economy may be turning around, which should increase state revenue, he said. Kinder credits the Bush administration's federal tax refunds for helping to boost the economy.

Even so, the state government projects short falls of $500 million to $900 million in state revenue for the next fiscal year, Kinder said.

Ultimately, Kinder said, the state needs tort reform and more business-friendly workers' compensation regulations to attract and keep businesses and jobs in Missouri.

Medical malpractice costs are driving doctors out of the state, Kinder said.

Missouri operates on a $19 billion budget. But lawmakers really have control over only $7 billion in spending, Kinder said. The rest is federal money and fees and other revenue that's earmarked for specific expenses, he said.

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