Hutchinson touts government 'transformation.' But is less more? | Arkansas Blog

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hutchinson touts government 'transformation.' But is less more?

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 4:48 PM

TRANSFORMATION: That's the governor's goal for state government. But is a transformed government, a better government?
  • TRANSFORMATION: That's the governor's goal for state government. But is a transformed government, a better government?
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today a Transformation Advisory Board to continue his goal of making government more efficient and productive.

This will bear watching and evaluating, of course.

You can always cut state jobs and save money. But can you do so without harming essential services?

You can always give away government cash and tax breaks to private business (and military retirees), but is it really productive? A Democrat-Gazette story today noted that Arkansas ranked 48th in attracting military retirees. That means almost three dozen states that also  tax military pensions attract more military retirees. Could we perhaps think first about what makes a place attractive to live besides the reflexive notion that low — or no — taxes solve all? Good government services, for example? Fine schools?

Then there's outsourcing government work to private companies. This rarely means more services for less money, trust me. Else how would the private contractors make a profit?

Then there's transformation itself. If you know in advance what your advisors are going to tell you — and they've been selected to mirror your thinking — what are the odds of true transformation? Republicans have been beating themselves in the head with the Laffer Curve for decades expecting a different outcome. And still it doesn't work.

UPDATE: See Paul Krugman's column this week on calcified Republican thinking and years of non-results on pretty much the game plan the governor has laid out. "Economic arrogance," he calls it.

But here's what the governor had to say in a  prepared release today:

Governor Asa Hutchinson today announced the creation of the Transformation Advisory Board, another step toward transforming state government by identifying efficiencies and cost-savings to better serve the Arkansas taxpayer.

The Transformation Advisory Board will continue to examine the recommendations for potential efficiencies and cost-savings from a report by the Arkansas Policy Foundation released last year. In addition, the advisory board will also be charged with evaluating additional efficiencies within state government and prioritizing the state’s plan of action for transformation.

The advisory board is a volunteer group of citizens from both the public and private sectors, who will make policy recommendations to the state’s Chief Transformation Officer, Amy Fecher. No taxpayer money will be spent on the board. A full list of the advisory board members can be found HERE. [If you spot any Democrats or progressive economic thinkers on that board, let me know.]

Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement:

“I am pleased to announce the creation of the Transformation Advisory Board. This advisory board will continue my administration’s efforts in identifying potential efficiencies and cost-savings. Transformation is a key priority of mine, as Governor, and I will continue to maintain that focus as we look for better ways to run state government, reduce bureaucracy and increase the level of savings to the state and taxpayer.”
Greg Kaza, Director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, issued the following statement:

“Citizen involvement is crucial to increasing efficiency in Arkansas state government. Today's announcement is consistent with the Efficiency Project's recommendation that citizens should work with the executive branch to advance efficiencies.” 

Since January of 2015, Governor Hutchinson has, among other initiatives, instituted a state-wide hiring freeze, resulting in more than 1,100 fewer state employees; merged four state agencies saving the taxpayer $10 million over the next five years; facilitated the sale of the Department of Health’s In-Home Services Unit to the publicly traded Kindred Healthcare, netting the state $24 million; and instituted an across the board 1% cut to state agencies, saving another $7 million annually.

In addition, Governor Hutchinson plans to sign three more efficiency bills on Wednesday, including: moving War Memorial Stadium to the Department of Parks and Tourism; moving the Arkansas Energy Office to the Department of Environmental Quality; and moving the Office of Health Information Technology to the Department of Health.

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