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The Privatization of Public Services, State by State

Donald Cohen, founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, a national resource center on privatization and responsible contracting, sends us this.

It seems there’s no public service or piece of property that private companies are not eyeing as potential revenue streams.  While funding anti-government think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), companies like Corrections Corporation of America, Waste Management, Maximus, Intuit, Laidlaw, Northrup Grumman, Koch Companies, Macquarie Capital Advisers, Pinnacle West, and UnitedHealthcare are hoping to use government as their candy store.

They want to take over our roads, bridges, parking lots, water systems, college dorms, and prisons.  And they want to deliver public services like transit systems, school cafeterias, trash and recycling pick up, mental health services and many others.  The following is a quick scan of just some of the proposals.


The Emergency manager of Flint, Mich., is considering selling off its water and sewer systems to the highest bidder. The systems are currently generating revenues for the city.

Long Island’s Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s proposal is proposing to privatize the county’s sewage treatment system.  Mangano also announced the privatization of Long Island Bus company to Veolia Transportation.

The Texas Lower Colorado River Authority is selling 18 retail water and wastewater systems in the Hill Country and in its southeast service area to [Canada-based] Corix Infrastructure.


School districts across the country are planning to contract out custodial, clerical, cafeteria and bus services. In Michigan, home to the right-wing, privatization think tank, the Mackinac Center, lots of
school districts are moving forward with plans including Muskegon Heights, West Branch-Rose City, Rochester districts.

The real estate industry, seeing potential profits from the growth in charter schools, wants in. One company, Entertainment Properties, a real estate investment trust, primarily a movie theater landlord, now owns 34 charter-school properties and sees “a huge capacity to grow.”


The Florida Senate failed to vote on a controversial proposal to private prisons in South Florida.   A labor community coalition including AFSCME, Teamsters, the Justice Policy Center, Grassroots Leaders and the Police Benevolent Association mobilized members and press opposition.  Perhaps the Gainesville businessmen who were sentenced to federal prison for paying kickbacks to the former secretary of the state department of corrections official after the prison canteens system was privatized had an impact.


The liquor industry is pushing hard to take control of state systems that now generate funds for cash-strapped governments.  Ohio Gov. John Kasich is privatizing the state’s liquor distribution system in a $1.4 billion dollar deal.  The Idaho Federation of Reagan Republicans submitted a citizen’s initiative to the secretary of state’s office that would privatize liquor sales in Idaho and eliminate the state Liquor Division.

Michigan Gov. Snider is proposing to deregulate the state’s alcohol distribution system. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission generates an estimated $330 million for the state’s general fund.  Snider’s Liquor Control Rules Advisory Committee is stacked with representatives from sectors that profit from alcohol sales.

It’s not all bad news. Record profits at state-owned liquor stores in  Virginia “may have sounded the final death knell for Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to privatize” them.

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