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Corbett panel to look at selling state assets, privatizing services

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

HARRISBURG -- A commission forming at Gov. Tom Corbett's direction will
examine from "soup to nuts" all state assets that can be sold and
services that can be privatized, a spokesman said today.

The governor's office will announce the commission in a couple weeks. A
key criteria will be the "cost effectiveness" of privatizing a state
service, said Kevin Harley, Corbett's press secretary. State prisons and
parks are off the table, he says. So is sale of state liquor stores,
since a private consultant is assessing the feasibility of that. Corbett
supports privatizing the liquor system.

It will be similar to the "Grace Commission" under former President
Ronald Reagan that looked at federal cost cutting and privatization,
Harley said. The Grace Commission, charged with finding fraud and waste,
in 1984 recommended cutting $242 billion of "waste" over three years,
but Congress ignored most of the recommendations.

At the state level, commission reports, even if the governor adopts
them, often require legislative approval for portions.

Harley said he believed that services at PennDOT and the Department of
General Services would be prime areas for consideration.

The key is to look at "core functions of government" and determine what
should be done with assets and services outside that definition, Harley
said. The commission's work will be temporary -- for a set period of
time, such as a couple months, he said.

"It's hard to comment specifically without knowing the exact scope of
the commission's work," said Erik Arneson, a Senate GOP spokesman. "But,
generally, any honest examination of how state services can be made more
efficient is a worthwhile undertaking."

"It sounds like another hand-picked group intended to provide cover for
Gov. Corbett's hard-to-sell policies," said House Democratic spokesman
Bill Patton. "People want job security, reliable health care and good
schools. They don't want another governor's commission established to
try to justify a predetermined right-wing agenda."

Corbett on Friday is expected to receive a report from his Marcellus
Shale Advisory Commission and a transportation commission will issue its
report by Aug. 1. The transportation panel recommended $2.5 billion of
new annual revenue to fix roads and bridges.

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