Thursday, December 28, 2006

Discount Cards

One of the things that drives me nuts when I go shopping is this whole notion of discount cards. Every grocery store, coffee shop, book store, okay national chain has these cards that if you happen to have, you get a magical discount. Heck, they even give you a 10% discount to sign up! Now, wouldn't it be magical if they gave everyone a discount all the time and beat the competition with service and product quality? I don't think Cabela's or WalMart has these but Cabela's does have a credit card that you accumulate points on to buy more stuff - which is nice.

But it got me thinking. Uh oh, is right. What if we could look at the services government supplies and try something similar to this. Before you go loco en la cabeza on me, hear me out. Why can't I get a fishing license at DMV? I get mine at Wal Mart even get my trout stamp there. If I give them my email address will they send me emails about upcoming specials at state parks like hotel chains do? How about a renewal online January 1st so that DGIF's cash flow is improved? How many licenses are not renewed for a variety of reasons that could be handled electronically? I can print off tickets to my favorite hockey game or even High School Musical for my daughter on line. I can even print off airline tickets.

Bill Leighty and I have talked about this kind of stuff in the abstract and we really need to do a better job of satisfiying the customer of goverment services.

How about the area of pay, leave and vacation for state employees? The VGEA, state employees association, wants 6% more for all 100k+ employees. Fine. Most employees want raises year after year to keep up with COLA etc. Should we be looking at ways to incent our employees in a review of the pay, leave, vacation package? The employees I speak with would be willing to look at it because the leave and vacation package is very generous and there is room for the discussion but they obviously will want more pay. Which is fine with me as long as the work is getting done. I think it would make us much more efficient and productive.

For instance, a 25 year employee told me that he gets about 52 paid days off a year. 27 vacation days. 10 personal days, 5 sick days, and then the state holidays as well.

At our company, we do not have a delineation betweenpersonal, sick, or vacation days. An employee's days off are just that - theirs and for us, we don't care what the employee calls it, we just know that they are not at work. We just want to be able to schedule around it. Very rarely do people call in sick anymore because they know that takes away from their time off - which we encourage. Employees need to be taking time off of work; however, we incent heavily on performance.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Last one!

Delegate Rosalyn Dance has offered to help out with Return to Work issues within state government - these would include disability claims, worker's comp etc. With a workforce in excess of 100,000, this is a considerable cost burden that could be better managed.

What is the cost of illegal immigration?

I ran into a friend last week and he asked me a pretty good question - what is the cost to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, local and state taxes, of illegal immigration?

I have heard estimates of up to 600 million per year but that might be somewhat dated. If you have any information on this, please let me know.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Final teams are in place on the House side

As we are bicameral and bipartisan, Delegates Toscano, Miller(Norfolk) and Sickles have offered to help out on the remaining areas of accounts receivables, communications and central mail respectively.

I will be flying wingman for Toscano and Miller since those areas are some of my personal favorites.

If you haven't checked out the publication Executive Amendments to the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget, you should. It gives you a chance to start to drill down on some of the departments of your government.

Starting at the top for instance, on page B-33 one finds the Office of the Governor.

In FY 2003 there were 29 employees for a total cost of $2,088,562 = $72,000 pp
In FY 2008 there will be 41 employees for a total cost of $4,379,423 = $107,000 pp

From there one can start asking questions on why the staff has increased positions by 41% and why the total cost has increased 110%.

Overall, this is a good document and CLEARLY the next step is to get the performance measurements in each office and department and not just the mindnumbingly boring mission statements and nebulous agency goals. We should see goals that are specific, achievable and drawn to the mission statements.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

House Side of Review Teams

Okay, we are well on the way to having the review teams filled up.

So far we have

Energy - Harvey Morgan

Water Usage - Tom Rust and Rob Wittman

Real Estate - Ed Scott

Printers/Copiers - Dave Nutter

Solid Waste - John Cosgrove

Fleet Management - Danny Marshall (Appropriations Wingman Landes)

Travel - Scott Lingamfelter

VITA - Jeff Frederick

Exchanging phone calls and emails with other prospectives for the other remaining areas but we are off to a great start. Stay tuned.

UPDATE #1: Paula Miller will be on the Communications team and David Toscano is looking at A/R.

P.S. Hanover Courthouse event with AFP went well! Good to see those in attendance!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hanover Courthouse 7pm TONIGHT!

Senator Ryan McDougle and I will be hosting a Town Hall at the historic Hanover Courthouse tonight at 7pm.

Americans for Prosperity has put this together and although I am a bit under the weather, I am looking forward to the questions of the audience.

Hope to see you there.

Tomorrow, I will update you on the sign ups for the House side of the review teams. It is coming along nicely.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Operational Review Teams

WOW! Is that an enticing subject or what? Operational Reviews!

Well, to some of us in state government, that is where the money/rubber if you will hits the road.

Are you getting what you pay for? Odd thought when spending more is the preferred method of showing that one cares about an issue. You can go online to the Inn at Little Washington and see that dinners run $138 per person and you can drive up to a Mickey Ds window and get a double cheeseburger for 99 cents.

On Thursday, I met with Bill Leighty(COS to Kaine),Tim Bass (Enterprise Application Director and Deputy Secretary of Technology), and Mike Thompson of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy to firm up the intiative between the Cost Cutting Caucus and the Administration.

We are setting up teams - one House member, a Senate member, a person or two from the private sector and executive branch middle management to review certain areas of state spending.

They are :
Water Usage
Real Estate
Central Mail
Return to Work
Solid Waste
Fleet Management

We also added two areas and will ask JLARC to review another.
Accounts Receivables

The legislative members will act primarily as a steering committee working with the others to focus, drill down and explore these areas.

As the teams are set, we'll let you know so that you can forward any ideas onto each. Or feel free to post them here.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Policy break.

The new 24 trailer is out!

Since the Steelers (statistical equivalent to the Patriots except for TURNOVERS) are not likely to make the playoffs, my attention turns to 24. Jack Bauer is back!

Yes, Jack Bauer would play for the Steelers...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

To Improve Failing Schools, Utilize Free-Market Principles

As readers of this blog will know, one issue that we at Americans for Prosperity have emphasized is the need for free market reforms in education. On Sunday, Del. Chris Saxman, had an op-ed on free market education reforms for Petersburg run in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Since I'm sure he wouldn't post it here on the blog on his own, we wanted to make sure you had the chance to see it.

Listen to Customers:
To Improve Failing Schools, Utilize Free-Market Principles
Dec 10, 2006

Staunton. One of the things that I have learned in my time in business is that if you think there is a problem with your products or services, do one very important thing: Ask your customers what the problem is. They will let you know everything you need to change.

Recently, the Virginia Department of Education dispatched another administrator to Petersburg to try to solve the problems of the Petersburg school system. Personally, I think the entire department ought to be relocated to Petersburg and have all its employees send their children to the public schools there. Then they might just get a handle on what the problem is and what they should to do solve it. Until then, one more bureaucrat from Richmond will serve only as a symbolic gesture that something needs to be done.

Too often in government, managers and leaders assume they know what the problem is and, therefore, know what the answer is. Since most core government services are virtual or actual monopolies, there really is no incentive to make the kinds of changes that are necessary because, after all, most customers of those services have no choice as to who is providing the services. Do you really think that cell phones and BlackBerry-type devices would be as prolific today were it not for the deregulation of AT&T (Ma Bell)? The answer is obviously no.

As a former teacher who has visited school systems not just in Virginia but also in suburban Chicago and inner-city Milwaukee, I can honestly tell you that there is no one way to educate every child. No matter how many individualized educational programs (IEPs) one has, sometimes even the best and brightest kids need a different environment in order to learn.

Read the full article online here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Good news coming!

Later today, I will be blasting out an email to my list about the recent on goings of the Cost Cutting Caucus. It is some pretty exciting news and hopefully we can cut and paste that email to this blog. Before I do, however, a tip of the hat to the Governor's Chief of Staff Bill Leighty - his efforts to bring about this news are not to be overlooked. Bill gets it and is working hard to do it. While many in politics look at all things in a partisan manner, Bill knows that to get things done, one has to actually work with "the other side" (cue the entry of Lord Vader).

I have enjoyed working with Bill over the years and look forward to many more years of productive service to the Commonwealth - by working together.

Now that legislation is getting filed and the session is just four weeks away, we will begin the part of the job I like the most - policy.