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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Big Improvements For Free

Seriously? Are you kidding?

When I first saw this, I thought that the state was going to be asking tech experts to work for free, in essence asking for a lot of highly-skilled interns for a year. This was stupid enough, but then I saw that what the state really wants is for these workers to be paid $150 to $250 an hour by private businesses. So apparently Pawlenty is looking for a few good businesses with absolutely no business sense.

Of course, the Pawlenty administration is all gung-ho about this. They need to talk it up if they expect anybody to actually take them up on this offer. But I'm confused. The state's CIO says that he "hopes to renew the spirit of the 'Minnesota Miracle' of the 1970s, when private companies 'were honored and delighted to participate' in government projects to improve the state." I'm not too sure, but did the Minnesota Miracle involve businesses doing the state's work for free? I thought it involved increasing sales and income taxes to reduce property taxes and reduce inequities between property-rich and property-poor communities. Maybe I'm wrong.

The only thing that would make this work is if businesses got a few "extras" in exchange for doing work for free. Say future state contracts, or maybe lax tax enforcement. No no no, says the administration. There will be no quid pro quo.

Which is why, in the end, this will fail. I'm all for public-private partnerships, but they need to be real partnerships. When one side gives to the other with nothing coming back, that's not a partnership. Pawlenty can't expect that Minnesota's business community is going to make up for his underinvestment in the state out of the goodness of their hearts. Nice thought on the government and private sector working together, but let's go back to the drawing board.

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