The group Americans For Prosperity on Tuesday launched a nine-week campaign to suggest ways the Missouri General Assembly and Gov. Jay Nixon can "think outside the box, really go after some bold ideas," said Patrick Werner, AFP's Missouri director.
Missouri lawmakers meet in Jefferson City for 18 weeks this year, so the AFP campaign will contact lawmakers for half of the session, promoting its nine-issue proposal it calls the "Path to Prosperity."
"We know that other states - Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina - legislative bodies and governors that are really doing some forward-thinking, big, bold policy initiatives that are moving their states forward," Werner said at a Capitol news conference, "and, frankly, attracting some jobs and growing, and we're not."
In a news release - and in a page on the group's website, americansforprosperity.org - AFP-Missouri said the nine topics in the campaign include: Prosperity & Freedom, Tax Reform, Education, Spending & Budget, Patient Protections, Energy, Regulatory Reform, Privatization & Municipal Reforms and Worker Freedoms.
Werner said the campaign will focus on one point each week.
AFP distributed 200 telephone directories to lawmakers, so they can understand what Werner called "The Yellow Pages Test."
"If they're faced with an issue that comes before state government," he explained, "maybe they should ask - If there is something that the private sector or not-for-profit organizations can be doing, maybe that's something they should be doing.
"And maybe government should not be doing it."
The goal, he said, is to provide services "more efficiently, more cost-effectively or, frankly, better (and) maybe shrink the size of government and, maybe, create jobs along the way and take some of the tax burden off Missouri families."
Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform at the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, said more and more policymakers are considering turning "to the private sector to see, "Where can we work with the private sector to save money, improve service quality and, maybe, even tap private dollars to deploy to build public assets?'"
He noted some states, like Texas, Florida and Virginia, have privately financed "billions of dollars" in highway projects, while Illinois, Indiana and New Jersey are developing "interesting concepts like the private management of state lotteries ... to generate more revenue to the state."
California has "rescued their state parks from closure, by hiring private managers to come in and take over the operations, streamline the operations and pay the state revenue for the privilege of running their parks," Gilroy said.
The public's interests are protected through well-written contracts, he said.
Werner and Gilroy both said competition among private interests should make those services better for consumers, while also being more cost-efficient than the same service run by the government.
"The point of this whole argument is where we're starting from," Werner said. "What are the core functions they should be doing?"
Gilroy said: "Government may want to see that folks are served, but that doesn't necessarily mean that government's public workers need to be the ones actually implementing that service or function."