Working to Create a Smaller, More Efficient Government
As we continue to struggle in this economy, it’s hard to see any positive that comes from a period of economic downturn such as this one. The legislature has worked to implement policies that will create jobs and help turn things around. But even as we do that, it bears mentioning that there is something positive that has resulted from the economic struggles of our state. As we have had extremely lean budget years because of declining revenues, we’ve had to take a close, hard look at where taxpayer dollars are going and to use those dollars in the most efficient way possible. Ideally, that’s what government should be doing at all times regardless of our economic situation, but a sluggish economy like we have now makes that practice an absolute necessity. In the face of economic adversity, one positive that emerges is a government that is focused on trimming the fat so that it evolves into a smaller, more efficient system that makes optimal use of taxpayer dollars. To me, that’s a very good thing and it’s what should be done to protect your pocketbook.
In an earlier Capitol Comments I mentioned a runaway bill (HB 1868) that started out as a good bill but evolved into a bad one over time. That bill had a host of amendments added to it that I found troublesome. However, amidst some of the worrisome amendments, we had a few positives as well. One of those was the consolidation of the State Water Patrol into the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Originally it was part of a plan to also eliminate the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. Fortunately, that part of the bill was scrapped as it moved through the process – something I supported as I firmly believe eliminating an important division warrants careful consideration and study. The water patrol change did go through and it is believed it will save the state as much as $3.7 million each year. It serves as an example of government tightening its belt effectively because those services still exist within our State Highway Patrol.
We do need to look at other changes similar to the water patrol merger but such changes should not be made without careful deliberations. Another thing that HB 1868 did to help in that regard is to create the Joint Committee on Reduction and Reorganization of Programs within State Government. This 13-member committee is charged with looking at these kinds of mergers and consolidations as well as other ways to reduce the overall size of state government without negatively impacting the services that Missourians need. The committee is similar to another that was formed by a piece of legislation that came out of the Senate (SCR 54). That resolution creates the Joint Interim Committee on Reducing the Size of State Government. Obviously, both committees will work toward a similar goal. I said in my previous Capitol Comments on HB 1868 that I prefer the committee created by the senate resolution simply because it provides a better method for selecting its members. However, I am a big supporter of the intent behind the creation of both committees. We can never have too many microscopes turned on state government and how it operates.
In the next few months these committees should examine each state department and agency within each department to determine programs or bureaucracies that should be eliminated or reduced. I expect the committees will work toward a final recommendation to legislative leadership that will hopefully result in legislation that is filed for the 2011 legislative session. My hope is that with careful scrutiny they will find additional ways to streamline government services so that taxpayer dollars are safeguarded in the way Missourians expect and deserve.