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Needless motor pool inefficiency drains funds

'It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. In fact, enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.'

Ñ P.J. O'Rourke,

'Parliament of Whores' (1991)

Oregon government provides various services that are supplied more cost-effectively in the private sector. The state operates a massive printing press business, yet private presses sit idle for want of work; the Department of Environmental Quality operates motor vehicle emission-testing facilities Ñ something privately owned companies are perfectly capable of doing. The list goes on, but the poster child for privatization is the state motor pool.

Oregon operates a $33.2 million motor pool system, even though private companies could provide the same service at less cost to taxpayers.

The case for privatization would be strong enough simply because the motor pool is 'consistently fined over $250,000 by the federal government for overcharging on its car rentals,' according to an Oregon Taxpayer's Association report cited in Brainstorm NW. Indeed, my office has documented fines ranging from $500,000 to $1.7 million for misappropriation of funds.

Taxpayers might be surprised to learn that state workers are offered a choice of 30 different vehicles Ñ from pickups to multipassenger vans to SUVs to sedans Ñ a menu that rivals Baskin-Robbins for variety.

Taxpayers might also be interested to learn that property taxes on motor pool properties would average $207,000 annually Ñ except that the pool is exempt from property and other business-related taxes. A few hundred thousand dollars would pay the salaries of two or three teachers in Rainier, Redmond or Rickreall.

And taxpayers might be fascinated to learn that, if a state worker drives from Salem and breaks down in, say, Ontario, the motor pool Ñ in a classic example of bureaucratic efficiency Ñ sends two employees and two vehicles to help the disabled driver: Employee No. 1 delivers a new vehicle; Employee No. 2 brings Employee No. 1 back to Salem.ÊThen there's the matter of towing the disabled vehicle back to Salem for repair.

I wholeheartedly agree with a Cascade Policy Institute report that said free market competition in the motor pool is nonexistent, which 'hurts the private sector economy.ÊWhen the private sector is closed out of markets, job growth as well as tax revenue from the private sector are prevented.'

Sen. Bev Clarno, R-Redmond, is the Senate Republican leader and sponsor of Senate Bill 725, which would privatize the state motor pool.