State budget crisis: searching for the silver lining. (Commentary).Can there really be a silver lining silver lining
A hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty.
[From the proverb "Every cloud has a silver lining". ? Could the grave fiscal crises now gripping the states prompt something beyond mindless across-the-board cuts? Might the door actually be opened for tough but critically important reforms?
A few straws of hope are in the wind--states reporting major operational changes as they seek to balance their budgets. These could be big-time learning experiences for America's governors and legislatures. One sees a way for them to do right for their states' future stability and welfare-acting in vivid contrast to official Washington's deep deficit mix of heavy war spending packaged with massive tax cuts.
Consider Washington state, where Gov. Gary Locke Gary Locke may be:
Instead, with counsel from the Minneapolis-based Public Strategies Group and its "reinventing government" crew headed by Peter Hutchinson, Locke and his advisers decided to start by listing their state's most critical goals, how it should be spending its money in the first place.
The Locke team first identified 10 key results it believed the state's citizens most wanted Most Wanted may refer to:
"Results teams" were set up for each outcome, to produce a "purchasing plan" to procure the best possible results. The health team, for example, decided the biggest returns came from prevention strategies--better health clinics, improved food sanitation, and the like--rather than more spending on Medicaid for working adults.
Each team then took a look at its share of the state government's current 1,400 activities, and ranked them from high to low priority--from services they'd purchase more of to those they would not buy at all.
Drawing the line where anticipated revenues ran out, the governor then produced his budget with its list of $24 billion it would buy and $2.4 billion it would not. It was perhaps the most comprehensible budget legislators had ever seen.
The budget-still in discussion-involves lots of pain, including elimination of Medicaid for nearly 60,000 of the working poor and cutting 2,500 state lobs. Though Locke is a Democrat, interest groups and organized labor Organized Labor
An association of workers united as a single, representative entity for the purpose of improving the workers' economic status and working conditions through collective bargaining with employers. Also known as "unions". objected strenuously while the Evergreen Freedom Foundation The Evergreen Freedom Foundation is a private, non-profit public policy think tank, based in Olympia, Washington, founded by Bob Williams, a former state legislator.
EFF's mission is to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and responsible government. , a conservative think tank, offered "Three cheers!" Major state newspapers endorsed the approach and Locke's personal popularity-even after six years in office- has soared.
In Massachusetts, the reorganization steps under development by the new Republican governor, Mitt Romney This article or section contains information about one or more candidates in an upcoming or ongoing election.
Content may change as the election approaches. , are clearly the most sweeping in a generation. They include reforming a creaky creak·y
adj. creak·i·er, creak·i·est
1. Tending to creak.
2. Shaky or infirm, as with age; decrepit: creaky knee joints; a creaky regime. human service delivery system and creating super-Cabinet posts whose secretaries can mold entire state agencies toward coordinated goals such as housing affordability and smart growth.
In Virginia, Democratic Gov. Mark Warner Mark Robert Warner (born December 15, 1954) is an American businessman and politician from the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia and a member of the Democratic Party. Warner is the immediate former governor of Virginia and the honorary chairman of the Forward Together PAC. is using his personal knowledge as a former telecommunications executive to combine scores of agencies and technology divisions scattered across state government into a single Virginia Information Technologies Agency. Expected net savings: $110 million of the $902 million Virginia spends on information technology each year.
"Having been in the high-tech field in the private sector, I knew where there were areas for great savings," Warner recently told Stateline.org. And he's trying to spread the reorganization gospel, telling new governors from across the country:
"You're going to have to make the cuts anyway; you're going to have to make the hard choices anyway. Use this as an opportunity not just to balance your budget, but use this as an opportunity to take on some of these issues that you know in good times there won't be the political will to do."
Yet another prophet of using hard times for constructive ends is Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, former Fairfax County supervisor and now chair of the House Government Reform Committee. "We have to retool re·tool
v. re·tooled, re·tool·ing, re·tools
1. To fit out (a factory, for example) with a new set of machinery and tools for making a different product.
2. the way government delivers its services," Davis told a forum sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government The Council for Excellence in Government is a public/private partnership organization initiated in the 1980s designed to improve the effectiveness of federal, state, and local government in the United States. .
"Cutting a program here or a program there is peanuts," said Davis, if one measures in terms of what can be saved with critical systems reforms--in procurement and contracting out of government services, in modernizing civil service to provide solid incentives for government professionals, and in giving reorganization authority to a president or governor.
With reorganization powers, for example, the executive can propose sweeping changes in how government departments are organized--a way, says Davis, to change encrusted en·crust also in·crust
tr.v. en·crust·ed, en·crust·ing, en·crusts
1. To cover or coat with or as if with a crust: hierarchies and avoid the "jurisdictional food fights over who's going to get what, who reports where." The legislature has power to vote on the changes--but without amendment.
The conclusion is obvious: We can save, we can live within our means, even in tough times. But only by reinventing how we operate.
Copyright [C] 2003, The Washington Post Writers Group. Reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this column are the author's and do not represent the official position of GFOA GFOA Government Finance Officers Association .
NEAL v. t. 1. To anneal.
v. i. 1. To be tempered by heat. PEIRCE is a syndicated columnist Inc.com defines a syndicated columnist as, "[A] person hired by publications or broadcast organizations to produce written or spoken commentary about specific feature subjects. based in Washington, D.C. His weekly column, which appears in more than 50 newspapers nationwide, examines trends and innovations in state and local government E-mail: email@example.com.