A Contributor's Full Disclosure & First Cost Cutting
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.