- Associated Press - Friday, January 13, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A group of 20 state lawmakers has sent a letter to University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro questioning Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to privatize maintenance work on the campuses of the public college system.

The letter signed by 17 Republicans and three Democrats notes that Haslam has left it up to the leaders of each institution to decide whether they want to participate in the outsourcing plan. Haslam has argued that privatizing maintenance work at public colleges and universities could save $35 million per year and could help control future tuition hikes.

“The goal is laudable and the Tennessee government should always search for efficiencies as good stewards of the taxpayer dollar,” the letter said. “Nevertheless, serious concerns and questions are raised not only regarding the validity of the evaluation process but also state-wide outsourcing as a good business practice.”

The letter writers, led by Republican Sen. Richard Briggs of Knoxville, argue that the privatization of government jobs would benefit out-of-state companies, cause a loss of flexibility for schools and hurt loyal employees.

“No longer will employees share the same goals and loyalty to their employer, the University of Tennessee,” according to the letter. “Their employer and future will be with an outside company.”

Michelle Martin, a spokeswoman for Haslam’s privatization initiative, noted that the governor has pledged to protect the jobs for any workers whose positions are outsourced.

“We believe the opportunities to help the state increase service at a lower cost to taxpayers are quite compelling, and stand behind the work that has been done in cooperation with university system representatives and others up to this point,” Martin said in an email.

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