Monday, January 26, 2009

More Opportunities Created By The Budget Shortfall

Last week I wrote about how the projected government shortfall is an opportunity to reduce the size of government and to apply technological advances to state government. This action will have the effect of providing improved customer service. A budget shortfall will force legislative leaders and agency officials to do what they would have not taken the time to do when state government largess was increasing. It is actually in a downturn when money is less plentiful that taxpayer accountability and customer service may improve.

I consider it the primary responsibilities of the government modernization effort not only to introduce ideas for reform, but also to clear away the statutory roadblocks that prevent the application of money saving processes.
But there are other vital roles for the modernization effort.

It is very important for those who are committed to the modernization of state government to undertake the effort of documenting savings enabled by technological upgrades. Over the years, state agencies have realized a considerable savings because of these upgrades. There have been millions of dollars worth of savings realized by government agencies such as streamlined procurement process savings and lower technology costs such as falling telecom rates.

One of the items I found interesting when I was new to the appropriations process was the fact that agencies hardly ever came before the Legislature to notify us of the savings and to ask that it be returned to the taxpayers. Instead, agencies mostly focused on explaining the need for, and the fantastic benefits that would result from new programs if only the Legislature would expand their budgets.

By documenting the millions of dollars saved in the past few years through the application of new technological processes, the government modernization effort can assist with fair and strategically targeted agency spending reductions that target and eliminate wasteful spending habits.

This documentation process is not an easy task. In fact, as you might imagine, agency officials may be reluctant to divulge the savings and are more than happy to make legislators earn their pay by figuring out where your tax dollars are being spent.

Another great opportunity afforded by the government modernization effort is that of transparency. One big challenge is to ensure that state government purchasing officials are able to review and analyze all government spending and then use that data to allow state purchasing officers to leverage better contracts.

Having this data accessible will not only save money, but it may very well become possible to allow the people to review this data online. Hopefully this tool will allow the review of each and every purchase made, the date and time of the purchase (so you can see which agencies are desperate to use up their budget at the end of the fiscal year in an effort to justify their funding), and the reason for purchase.

These are a few of the projects that I am looking forward to being an advocate for during the upcoming legislative session.

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