Christie looks to privatize motor vehicle inspections, other services


New Jersey would close its centralized car inspection lanes and motorists would pay for their own emissions tests under a sweeping set of recommendations set to be released by the Christie administration today.

State parks, psychiatric hospitals and even turnpike toll booths could also be run by private operators, according to the 57-page report on privatization obtained by The Star-Ledger. Preschool classrooms would no longer be built at public expense, state employees would pay for parking and private vendors would dish out food, deliver health care and run education programs behind prison walls.

All told, the report says, New Jersey could save at least $210 million a year by delivering an array of services through private hands.

“The question has to be, ‘Why do you continue to operate in a manner that’s more costly and less effective?’ rather than, ‘Why change?’ ” said Richard Zimmer, the former Republican congressman who chaired the task force.

It is unclear how many of the recommendations will be adopted by Governor Christie, who commissioned the report in March. Christie’s spokesman declined comment Thursday.

But the car inspection proposal is sure to stir up controversy in a state with a tortured history of privatizing emissions testing.

The report says that beginning next July, “New Jersey should withdraw entirely from direct participation in the vehicle inspection process.” Before then, the state would develop a plan to certify service stations and other shops “to make the transition seamless for motorists and assure that private inspection fees will be transparent and reasonable.”

The state would then sell the land where its facilities now operate.

The proposal would require breaking the state’s contract with Parsons Corp., which is two years into a five-year, $276 million deal to do emissions and mechanical inspections. The mechanical inspections were already phased out under the budget that went into effect July 1.

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