Putting Government Waste On the Chopping Block
The Club has long been a proponent of finding ways to shrink government. Unfortunately, among our political class this concept has often been nothing more than a campaign slogan than an actual policy goal. The good news is that state leaders appear to be serious about fleshing out the waste within our bloated state government.
Efficiency is Just Good Government
Last session one of the most unheralded reforms was the elimination of the Department of Weights and Measures, a state agency that regulated gas pumps, grocery store scales, taxis, limos, ride-share companies and others. The department’s duties were easily merged into the Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture, who regulate the same businesses in other areas.
The collapse of the Department of Weights and Measures encountered no significant opposition, and all but a few naysayers celebrated the opportunity to deliver services more efficiently.
That’s because streamlining just makes sense. Many states around the country have focused extensively on this issue, even developing commissions for the express purpose of slimming down government. In the State of Louisiana, their Commission on Streamlining Government made 238 recommendations to improve the ways in which they operate. Indiana has gone even further to require local governments step up to the plate.
Bureaucracy Tends to Creep
When left to their own devices, government expands. One small counter balance to this in Arizona is a process called the sunset review process, which requires the legislature to periodically reauthorize and extend the life of a state agency. Last month, in a Committee of Reference of the Senate Commerce and Workforce Development and House Commerce Committee, lawmakers heard from several agencies facing elimination, including The Industrial Commission of Arizona.
When the Industrial Commission started in 1929 their purview was limited to a singular mission of administering worker compensation issues, conflicts and benefits. Today it is a bloated 270 employee agency that meddles in eight areas of administration. Additionally, during the hearing Lawmakers had pressing questions about the five-person commission’s per diem expenses as well. Two commissioners filed per diem reimbursements for 253 and 292 days. That’s more than the number of work days in a year, for a board who works approximately three days a month.
This kind of overreach was the catalyst for the dissolution of the Department of Weights and Measures. Several weeks before the Super Bowl, the department’s director was running sting operations to shut down Uber and Lyft drivers. Left unchecked, this threatened small business, hurt the economy and put more impaired drivers on the street.
Puts the Brakes on Spending
Continuous streamlining is a built-in check on spending. Though zero-based budgeting is difficult to implement at the state level, evaluating agencies is another way of examining a department’s baseline. Without critical scrutiny of processes, functions and purposes, government will continue to spend more every year without exception.
Though many are still reeling at the idea that it is possible to make government smaller, the Club and other limited government champions are looking forward to what will qualify for the chopping block next session. Everything should be on the table for elimination, streamlining, consolidation, privatization or outsourcing. State leaders appear to be making good on a campaign promise, and that is good news for hardworking taxpayers.