Today, the pandemic has caused record unemployment and intensified the need for public programs and services (like unemployment programs, free testing, new transportation infrastructure, and more). We are seeing more clearly than ever how local and state government is indispensable to our collective well-being. There is also unprecedented interest in redirecting bloated police funding toward services and policies that proactively improve the safety and stability through addressing social and economic needs. And at the same time, there is a growing national and global movement to defend and take back our public services from privatizing corporations who have profited from the right-wing austerity politics of the last few decades.
With this momentum to make our public resources accountable to the public interest, we can further protect and democratize the public good by replicating a law that has been operating successfully at the state level.
The Pacheco Law, or Taxpayer Protection Act, of 1993
In 1993, the Massachusetts state legislature passed the Pacheco Law, also known as the Taxpayer Protection Act (TPA). The law protects against bad privatization deals by protecting workers and requiring proposals to save taxpayer money while delivering an equal or better quality of goods or services. The law has been described as one of the best protections of the public good in the nation and has prevented wasteful privatization projects like highway maintenance in Western Mass, and the outsourcing of MBTA bus routes.
We need protections at the municipal level: TPA 2.0
While the Pacheco Law has successfully prevented exploitative contracting decisions at the state level, the law does not extend to municipal services. Services in our Commonwealth’s hundreds of cities, towns, and school districts can still be outsourced without review or labor protections. This means that many essential services we use every day – including our public schools, water and sewer, recycling services, streets and sidewalks, the fire department, and snow removal — are at risk of being privatized.
Luckily, we can protect local governments against the threat of privatization by replicating this common-sense law already in place at the state level.
A TPA for our towns, cities, and school boards — a TPA 2.0 — would protect our shared well-being and prosperity by ensuring that municipal services are not sold off to boost a corporate bottom line at the expense of the public interest.
What could TPA 2.0 do?
- Provide protections similar to those in the state-level TPA, ensuring no privatization could happen if it did not save money and preserve quality and maintain job quality.
- Put the public in charge of cost and quality analysis. The state-level TPA puts the state auditor in charge of this analysis. We can foster democracy and public participation by establishing Public Good Boards to assume this role in our cities and towns.
- Protect good jobs by ensuring that contractors honor any labor agreements already in place.
- Catch up to the realities of 21st-century contracts by including consultants in the definition of services that must be protected from outsourcing.