Outsourcing government services to the private industry could become more commonplace, under legislation passed by the 2008 Legislature.

Lawmakers approved a pair of bills requiring state and local governments to inventory all "competitive activities" that potentially could be done better — and cheaper — by the private sector.

Salt Lake County officials fear the privatization move could be the first step to shutting down government-operated golf courses and recreation centers.

"You can privatize just about anything if you really want to," Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said in an earlier interview. "The question is what will best serve the citizens, will government or private industry best serve the citizens?"

Royce Van Tassell of the Utah Taxpayers Association said the bills will not spell the end of county-run recreation centers.

He said all SB45 would do is force counties and cities to have a "meaningful conversation" about how to best use taxpayer dollars.

"The bill is not privatizing a single thing," Van Tassell said. "I understand the fear, but I don't think that fear should get in the way of having a meaningful conversation."

SB45, sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, make Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, West Valley and Provo the guinea pigs to test out the new inventory process. Smaller counties and cities will then try it out a year later.

Another bill, HB75, targets activities on the state level.

Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, HB75's bill sponsor, said government should "stick to the activities they are good at" and just use the Yellow Pages to find the private companies that could do the rest much better.

"They will know whether or not they should be involved with these activities," Frank said of the outcome of the inventory.

Frank's bill also gives the private industry a bigger voice on the state privatization policy board, with seven members to the public sector's eight.

The board has been in place for about 20 years, and has privatized some government functions like legislative printing, which has been outsourced to Xerox.

But it hasn't been as successful as some leaders had hoped.

"I don't think over the years it produced the results that we intended," said Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, said during floor debate on the bill. "This will perhaps put the motor in the privatization board."


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