Every now and again, something that probably makes great business sense just doesn’t feel quite right in your stomach.
The Kansas Department of Revenue plans to hand over to a private bank the tedious and for most purposes dull and simple job of opening up your Kansas income tax filing envelope, sorting out the papers, sending the check you wrote to a bank to channel to the State General Fund, and forwarding the tax filing to other state employees to make sure it is accurate.
It’s called contracting-out, and it operates much the same as building roads. Those folks with the jack hammers and high-visibility vests you see in construction zones aren’t state employees. They work for construction companies that won the contract to build the road.
It’s one thing when it is putting down asphalt, or maybe roofing a state office building.
But it just has a little different feel when those contract workers — who will know your name, where you live and how much money you made last year — don’t work for the state, where there are strict rules we’ve come to expect as a matter of culture. Probably the same rules remain, yet … .
The whole issue of contracting out state jobs to private businesses is something that caught fire with the results of a $3 million study for government efficiencies — read cost-savings — by outsourcing state responsibilities, by cutting services, by basically running state government like a lean business.
On a strictly business basis, it probably makes sense to out-source that basic receipt of income tax filings from Kansans — but it has a funny feel to it, doesn’t it?
This is where that wallet-to-stomach debate starts.
Sure, it’s probably cheaper to hire non-state employees, probably a step or two up from the minimum wage, to do work the state and all Kansans know needs to be done. Everyone talks about efficiencies in government, in lowering the operating costs of the state so your tax bill will be lower.
It’s one thing when to save money state forms for nearly everything are printed on both sides of the piece of paper. But it feels a little different when someone who doesn’t work for the state, a Cabinet secretary or the governor, or essentially, for us, is opening our income tax forms.
Maybe that feeling is because we’ve come to respect and trust those unknown, unseen state employees.
That trust is probably the biggest asset state employees as a group bring with them to their jobs. And it is worth something to the employees and to us taxpayers who hire them. It might cost a little more to have state employees handling our tax forms, our checks, but there’s the aspect of trust.
An estimated 40 state jobs would be eliminated and who knows what happens to those state employees after the out-sourcing? Does it matter whether the laid-off workers are civil servants, or whether they are “unclassified” which means they have no basic job protections and due process rights when their jobs are ended? They might find other jobs within state government or with other agencies, but essentially those jobs are gone from state employment.
The Kansas Legislature has made a lot of change in the state’s civil service law, and encouraged workers through pay hikes to abandon that job protection and right to due process, which was essentially their guarantee that if they do good work and do it right, they won’t be laid off just because of who they know.
And, contracting out those tax jobs? Well, at least you don’t have to report your weight on the tax forms.
Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.