Thursday, December 17, 2015

Another Hutchinson study: This one on efficiency

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 1:04 PM

click to enlarge policy.jpg
Arkansas Business reports on another task endorsed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. He's told state agencies to cooperate with an Arkansas Policy Foundation study of state government efficiency.

UPDATE: The original story, based on a Policy Foundation news release was that this would be another occasion to give Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin something to do with that office's abundant down time. He was said to be leading the study while the nonprofit Foundation will "facilitate" research.  AB now says the news release was in error and is being revised. The link to their story has been revised to the new version.

The 20-year-old Policy Foundation may be nominally nonpartisan, but it is, in effect, a Republican tool. It has been supported, for example, by the inherited wealth of Jackson T. Stephens Jr., who has been board chair and a major funder of conservative Republican political efforts, the Club for Growth particularly. The Foundation has reflected his thinking and that of other wealthy patrons. It has been a reliable source of information supporting the beauty of lower income taxes, particularly lower capital gains taxes — the already lower tax rate paid by people like Stephens who don't have to sweat for income but live off inherited investment wealth. Then there is education, along the Walton model of killing the existing system in favor of charters/vouchers/union destruction/anti-LRSD/etc.

Madison Murphy, another trust funder who sits on the Foundation Board, headed a previous government review by the same foundation years ago.  It came up with ideas such as "performance-based pay" (a practice often ignored in private industry and more recently ignored by the commission that boosted legislative pay three-fold). You wonder now how welcome some ideas for smaller government and fewer dead-wood jobs will be given that Republicans now get the opportunity to fill all those featherbeds rather than Democrats.

The previous Policy Foundation study also talked about having a bipartisan state audit committee with members from outside government. In some ways, this is not a bad idea. Audit has been used increasingly in recent times to grind political axes of the controlling Republican Party. Where a nonpartisan job still gets done, less attention is called — for example to the abuse of General Improvement Fund spending still being doled out in the same unconstitutional manner by legislators, sometimes even doubly unconstitutional when it's local legislative spending in support of pet religious beneficiaries. The audit of out-of-control spending in Northwest Arkansas is a case in point of "inefficient" state government practices (unpaid local senior center grocery bills paid off by state money), bordering on criminal. It merited the most limited legislative outcry because it was in Republican heartland and the inefficiently spent money generally went to favorite Republican causes, such as a huge lick to a local Bible college favored by Sen. Jon Woods and others.

But bring on a study. And heck go ahead and give Tim Griffin something to do with it. It will be another study intended from the outset (Common Core, Obamacare, highways, etc.) to validate whatever Asa plans to do anyway. I predict the governor will proclaim himself satisfied, as he did yesterday in applauding the recommendation that Obamacare be continued in Arkansas, if only a little more efficiently. (Translation of efficiency: Grind the poor, comfort the rich.)

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