Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Contributor's Full Disclosure & First Cost Cutting

Little did I know yesterday that my invitation to join this blog was "in the mail." I am very honored to have been asked by Del. Saxman to contribute my thoughts to this potentially exciting project.

I thought it would be a good idea if I made full disclosure of my status and my general philosophy for those who are not familiar with my writings, although I think Del. Saxman summarized them well in his introduction.

In July I will have been a state employee for ten years. I work in economic development and the nature of my job offers me two valuable perspectives: I am closely in touch with citizens who are trying to navigate state requirements and I have the opportunity to observe the workings of many state agencies insofar as they serve the public.

Despite what I believe is a broad vista onto state government, it is still like looking at the Shenandoah Valley through a keyhole. I am passionate, but persuadable.

I generally believe that state government does not hold reducing expenses in high enough regard. State government generally focuses inwardly, on the needs of the bureaucratic machinery, as opposed to the needs of taxpayers. This frequently makes administrative expenses higher than they need to be, so expense reduction potential exists at almost every agency. Some might scoff at this "nickel and dime" savings, but until a climate is created that values all cost reductions, it is difficult to get any cost reductions. "Small" costs across 100 agencies add up to "real money."

I had an epiphany shortly after Gov. Warner cut expenses in 2002. I saw that it was possible to actually provide more services for less money and I have aggressively incorporated that thinking into everything I have done since. I invite anyone who is interested in my approach or who wonders if I really live what I preach to contact me by phone, email, or live chat at the Virginia Business Information Center.

My interest is in making government more efficient. Every dollar wasted on a non-essential or inefficient activity is a dollar that could be going to something government must do--provide for public safety, public education, and public assistance for the truly needy, to name three of the most important. Efficient government-cost cutting shouldn't be a partisan issue. It should be something we routinely do because it's the right thing to do for our real bosses, the taxpayers.

Not Larry Sabato has already asked that the cost-cutting begin. Let me suggest two quick areas where I believe, from my experience, state agencies spend too much:

1. Printing. State agencies print tons of material and pass it out reflexively. Much of it just PR pulp. If we are a state committed to technology, we should be driving citizens to the internet. It's always there, as opposed to the brochure that is thrown away.

2. Travel. State employees, notably highly compensated employees, travel too much, especially to expensive conferences, and they share too little information when they return. I know "networking" is a valuable tool, but let's be honest here. A lot of the "networking" at these conferences is personal, unrelated to finding new and better ways to do their state job.

If state agencies were able to identify how much they spend in these areas, I would say the legislature could cut at least 25% of printing and travel expense from every agency budget and it would have no impact on the services the agency provides.

There--a small start.


  • Will, Great post, and VERY good point on printing. As the legislative session begins today, ask any of the returning legislators how many books, hand-outs and other printed materials they receive from state agencies over the next 60 days. And we're not talking one-pagers here-- these are full color, high quality, glossy hundred page documents. And they receive them from countless agencies. Then ask the legislators how many of those glossy state agency books they actually have the opportunity to read. Most legislative offices are very computer literate, and I think you are right, directing them to where they could find the information online would not only save money, but would probably be more valuable than a book that will never get looked at...

    And that is just a small example of how much these state agencies are printing annually...

    By Blogger AFPVA, at 1/11/2006 8:16 AM  

  • Good stuff. I often get these printed publications that stir one thought,"We paid for this?". Some of these print jobs are just unnecessary. If we can put a 1000 page more transparent budget on a disk or just link it online, then we can do the same for publications that go largely unread.

    By Anonymous Chris Saxman, at 1/11/2006 2:07 PM  

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