Madison Office: 122 South, State Capitol  Phone: (608) 266-7745  E-mail:

November 29, 2007


A Column of Personal Opinion
By State Senator Sheila Harsdorf



Changes in State Contracting Bring Tax Savings


Reforming how the state contracts for public services is paying dividends for taxpayers. This important reform spurred by legislative review and brought about by bipartisan action two years ago is reported to have reduced state contractor costs by $70 million in 2006.

Wisconsin state government spends about half a billion dollars each year contracting for public services. Reliance on outside contractors continues to grow. However, some contracts have exemplified how waste and political influence can get the best of taxpayers.  Last session, State Senator Rob Cowles of Green Bay spearheaded committee hearings and legislation to overhaul the state contracting process. The contract reform legislation passed overwhelmingly, 88-7 in the State Assembly and 33-0 in the State Senate.

This effort brought about a uniform and complete cost analysis of contracts, as well requiring state agencies to weigh the costs and benefits of outside contracting versus utilizing state workers.  241 analyses were done in the first year and helped enable agencies to make better decisions about how to best get state work done. Outside contractors reacted to the new competition and review process by lowering total costs by 14%. This is real taxpayer savings brought about through increased accountability and competition. 

Wisconsin lawmakers have an obligation to root-out government waste and improve public services. Contract reform is an accomplishment that will provide longstanding benefits for Wisconsin taxpayers. For example, through uniformity, it was found that billing under outside contractors was as much as $200 per hour for certain computer projects. This was dramatically reduced when comparisons were brought about to foster increased competition and choices for state agencies.

Please let me know of your suggestions to help reduce taxpayer costs. Send me an email to or call my office at 1-800-862-1092.