Public unions demonstrated once again their hold over the majority Democrats when the Assembly passed a resolution to oppose out-sourcing of public services. The position taken by the Assembly throws out the notion that the goal of government is to deliver services in the most effective way. A secondary goal is to be frugal with taxpayers’ money. Those goals are subsumed by a resolution that clearly indicates that local governments must not consider alternatives to delivering services.

Free competition for government contracts likely would produce the best results in delivering services and controlling costs for local governments. While the non-binding resolution carries no force of law it sets up a scenario for legislators to pass anti-outsourcing measures as they come up.

What’s ironic is that the resolution contains the argument that it gives “public service workers the opportunity to develop their own plan on how to deliver cost-effective, high-quality services.”

They don’t have that opportunity now?

In fact, one of the key ways to improve government is to allow public workers a chance to compete against private sector contractors to come up with the most efficient, cost effective plan to perform government service work.

Two decades ago, authors Ted Gaebler and David Osborne wrote a popular book, Reinventing Government, that proposed better ways to deliver government services. Their plan called for customer-driven, market-oriented solutions that could actually empower government employees. One example they cited at the time was when Phoenix forced its trash collectors to compete with private businesses while guaranteeing the collectors’ jobs. Morale and productivity soared for the workers.

It is no secret that public workers can compete. They know the government systems better than most and know where the flaws are. It was not surprising when Gov. Schwarzenegger created the California Performance Review that the many solutions put forth to improve state government came from a task force made up largely of public sector workers.

But the resolution passed yesterday is designed to crush such enthusiasm. Without competition there is no motivation to improve.

The Democrats who pushed this measure through the Assembly should instead use as a lodestar for delivering services a goal expressed by former Democratic New York governor, Mario Cuomo, who told the New York Times, “It is not government’s obligation to provide services, but to see that they’re provided.”