VACostCutting

Friday, October 20, 2006

Virginia's High Tech!

RTD reports that Virginia ranks second in the nation in using information technology for public services, according to a new study by the Center for Digital Government. Great news, right? So what does this mean to the taxpayer? But perhaps more importantly, how has technology changed the way the state does business? How has the introduction of new IT and innovation impacted the quality of services the Commonwealth delivers to us?

I don't doubt that we should be proud and that its much better to be #2, and not #50. Beyond that, however, rankings are irrelevant without knowing what you're measuring or comparing. At first glance, the measures and scores have more to do with implementing IT into the business practices of the state -- putting services online is just part of it -- and not necessarily delivering value to taxpayers.

Virginia moved up the rankings rapidly largely because of Warner's efforts to consolidate and centralize IT infrastructure, creating a common platform but remove overlap and duplication -- state architecture development and IT infrastructure are large chunks of score. In addition, IT planning is as well -- Gov Warner was and is a visionary in this regard and he certainly moved the state forward. All good things but what do we have to show for it?

With that said, I believe there really isn't a way to capture any savings from these efforts -- I'm sure they were there, but without the transparency, or the performance measurement programs in place we'd be guessing....and those savings were sucked back up into the agencies as we watch their budgets grow and grow.

Technology is supposed to make things more efficient and cost less. Its supposed to make it easier to measure and evaluate. Its supposed to shed new light on how things operate and allow for innovation. Its supposed to make it easier to communicate results and outcomes. Yet we still have debates about transparency and performance in state government...oh, and rising budgets too!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gas Prices - FILL UP IN STAUNTON!

Imagine my surprise when my wife came home and said that she just filled up the minivan at $1.71 a gallon! Woo hoo...

Then I saw where Staunton had some of the lowest gas prices in the country.

Then I saw the lines at the gas stations and the prices went back up. Go figure that demand would influence price.

Oh well, it was great while it lasted.

The Dept of Gen Services has been doing some good work in fleet management and they think they will save some serious cash. Rich Sliwoski sought me out and we had brief but meaningful meeting in the lobby of the Patrick Henry Building. At least they are trying, hopefully real results will be seen. At least they are trying...that's a good thing.

I will try to get him to email me that powerpoint he put together on it....

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cato Policy Report: How School Choice Can Help States Reduce Education Costs

AFPVA has had a busy summer as well, so we also apologize for the light blogging for the past few months. As we hit the road this summer on our Taxpayer Trust Tour to highlight out-of-control state spending, one of the issues that was raised over and over again by AFP members was a concern about K-12 education spending.

Education reform has been a topic of much discussion here on the Cost Cutting Caucus blog (examples here and here), and earlier this month, the Cato Institute released a new policy analysis by David Salisbury, which examines the fiscal benefits that can be gained by implementing school choice programs.


Historically, elementary and secondary education has been the largest item in state budgets. During the past three decades, state spending on public education has grown both in terms of revenues spent per pupil and as a percentage of total personal income. Spending on K–12 education is expected to continue to rise during the next few years, mainly because of the increased number of teachers and other school personnel that will be needed to meet increased enrollment.

In view of the large share of state budgets devoted to public education and the cost increases expected in the future, it is appropriate to ask how state policymakers might reduce the rate of growth of local and state spending on education. One of the most promising means for doing so is school choice. To demonstrate the potential impact of school choice on state budgets, this paper draws from legislative and independent evaluations of the fiscal effects of such programs in the states that have enacted or are contemplating enacting them.

-- David Salisbury, “Saving Money and Improving Education: How School Choice Can Help States Reduce Education Costs” (executive summary)

~Whitney

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Money saved!

While many people often scoff at the ability of legislators to actually save money, I am always impressed when it actually happens.

In this year's GA Session, the Commonwealth finally moved on the consolidation of the two campuses of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. After THIRTY years of study, review, discussion, and political fighting, the schools will finally be consolidated to the campus at Staunton (pronounced stan ton ).

There are approximately 180 students enrolled in both schools and now part of the savings derived from the consolidation will go to these deserving students. That is good governance and we should all be proud that it has finally happened.

This really is a win-win. The campus at Hampton is about 80 acres and just off I-664 perfectly located so that literally thousands of Hampton Roads citizens can access whatever becomes the new use/uses for this property. The possibilities are tremendous and I look forward to helping that property develop.

Back in the saddle again

I realize that we have been off the blogosphere for far too long, but the Special Session was preceded by the preparation for those fabulous two days of watching 27 bills be passed by the House to be declared as "doing nothing".

Following the Special Session, I had to attend the International Bottled Water Association convention in Las Vegas. Then back to Richmond for two days of legislative meetings or as the press calls them - days of doing nothing.

NOT that I am complaining, but honestly how can passing over two dozen bills be called doing nothing? Sure didn't feel like it. In fact, as a member on the House Transportation Committee I was thoroughly impressed with the House package. Naturally, I would have liked my congestion pricing legislation to move forward. There is always another day or session in January anyway.