New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week formed a privatization task force to evaluate what government operations could benefit from management by private companies.

The aim is to reduce the state’s payroll and lower state operating costs. The five-member panel will file their recommendations to the governor by May 31.

Former Garden State Republican congressman Dick Zimmer will head the task force. He is currently president of Zimmer Strategies Inc., an independent public policy consulting firm. From 2001 through 2009, Zimmer worked at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a Washington lobbyist firm.

“Delivering programs and services to our citizens is government’s primary job, but I have asked the task force to look for places where we can do this in a more efficient, cost-effective way by having the private sector do it,” Christie said in a prepared statement.

“This full review will allow the lieutenant governor and me to make carefully informed decisions on where and how to do this as we continue to responsibly manage state government,” the Republican governor added. “It will also make recommendations for how privatization could improve operations and reduce costs for municipalities, school districts and counties.”

Also serving on the committee are Todd Caliguire, co-president of ANW/Crestwood, Inc., which distributes paper product to retailers; Kathleen Davis, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey; Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey president John Galandak; and former Summit Common Council member P. Kelly Hatfield.

The new governor will release his fiscal 2011 budget proposal tomorrow. Officials estimate an $11 billion deficit next year.

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