NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Big corporations should not be making big profits at the expense of Tennessee taxpayers.
That was the message from Tennessee Democrats, as they sounded the alarm Tuesday over a plan to privatize more of state government.
Their target: a plan now under consideration by the Gov. Bill Haslam's administration to outsource the maintenance and operation of, potentially, every building that the state owns.
"Tennessee is not for sale. Tennessee jobs are not for sale to Governor Haslam's buddies," said Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini.
Mancini was joined at a morning news conference by Nashville Reps. Mike Stewart and John Ray Clemmons.
Two years after outsourcing the operation of state office buildings, the Haslam administration is now looking at doing the same for state prisons, as well as potentially every college and university building across Tennessee.
"In privatization," Mancini said, "what usually happens is a private company comes in and the first thing they do is cut jobs and they cut wages and benefits. So this is absolutely is about jobs."
That's what happened after the Haslam administration hired the Chicago corporation, Jones Lang Lasalle, giving it a multi-million-dollar contract to manage state office buildings.
Now, university employees fear more corporate profits could come from cutting jobs -- and services.
"So you are going to cut corners," Clemmons said. "You are not going to provide the same level of services because you are always looking for a way to make your investors and your stockholders happy."
But the governor has argued that the administration's experience shows that privatization does save money.
Still, when we asked about whether university buildings being poorly managed, Haslam replied: "We'll find that out."
Stewart said, "Right now until somebody identifies a state agency, a state activity, that is being performed improperly, the question is: why are we even going down this road?"
The Nashville Democrat pointed to our NewsChannel 5 investigation of a contract that outsourced the maintenance of state vehicles to Bridgestone-Firestone.
We found a headlight bulb that the state could have bought for $1.74 from a parts company on an existing state contract.
Bridgestone's charge: $12.34, plus another $23 for installation.
There was also a no-bid contract with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
We went online looking for discount codes and found a mid-size car for $148 a week.
The state's price: $184.
"What we see from this administration," Mancini said, "clearly is a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability and cronyism."
The Haslam administration insists no final decision has been made, although it's clear that they think privatization make sense for taxpayers.
As for the evidence to back up those claims, the governor recently said they are still working on that.