Ten Big Bold Government Reforms
...and 140 bonus ideas to help balance the budget
By Jason Williams

1. Spending limit: Our state budget has averaged 13 percent growth, per biennium, for the past 25 years. For many years, Oregon ranked in the top 10 spending states, per capita, in the nation. These are acute symptoms of a disease known as spendaphilia. The cure is Don McIntire’s population-inflation spending limit, similar to Colorado. While Colorado has one of the nation’s strongest economies, Oregon has been leading in unemployment.

2. Pull the political pork: Take out pork programs like the one percent-for-arts program mandate. Builders have laughed at our system where they scramble to spend one percent of their construction budget on art projects. Speaking of art, let’s eliminate the $500 art tax credit and tax breaks for Hollywood film studios and baseball players. We should replace those tax breaks for something meaningful like a $1,000 tax credit for families taking care of a disabled family member. This will help keep families together, improve care, and reduce the burden and cost to the state.

3. Follow the yellow brick road of transportation innovation: One genius idea by a local company promises to save our state tens of millions of dollars by widening our roads by three feet, and moving the lane stripes over three feet. This solves the rut problem and extends the life of our roads by years. Other inventive transportation ideas include privatizing parts of both the Dept. of Motor Vehicles and the Dept. of Environmental Quality by letting private auto shops test for emissions.

4. PERS reform: One of the most expensive public employee retirement systems in the nation is taking its toll on the budget. Education employee PERS expenses are expected to rise 35 percent this year alone. Begin pension reform by correcting over-crediting that has occurred over the past 15 years. Remove the conflict of interest by removing legislators entirely out of the system. Close PERS money holes by ending double dipping. Double dipping happens when an employee retires, and gets rehired in the same or similar position, collecting both a full salary and PERS benefits at the same time. For instance, in 2001 a Medford school superintendent quit his job and was rehired as a consultant making the same $114,000 annual salary, plus his $100,000 annual PERS benefits. The public was never notified about the double dipping arrangement made for the superintendent and a dozen other employees in the district.

5. Payroll report: No business can balance their budget without knowing how many employees it has and exactly what they are doing. We want an annual state employee report listing all persons paid by the state, their job description, and total compensation. Maybe Neil Goldschmidt’s $500,000 job would have been discovered earlier if such an employee report had been available. Since the rate of public employee growth has grown faster than the state population growth for the past ten years (1993 to 2002), it is long overdue to ask ourselves: Who are these people and what are they doing?

6. Clean house through elimination and privatization: Let’s eliminate the Oregon Progress Board. Who needs to spend a half million dollars to hear the Progress Board tell us that taxes are too low and we don’t need the kicker? Especially when we already pay lawmakers to tell us that. Out with the State Printing Office. In with Kinko’s or Lazerquick. Out with the State Motor Pool. In with Hertz or Enterprise. Out with the Employment Department’s role of finding people jobs. In with temp employment agencies.

7. Budget reform: Our lawmakers are balancing the budget in the dark. Oregon desperately needs zero-based budgeting like most other governments. We need a state comparison index that measures cost ratios of government services. This will help us measure key facts like how much it costs per-mile to pave a new road and the cost-per-caseload to deliver a welfare benefit. Once this information is collected and centralized, we should track cost increases over time and compare against other states. We can also end the big reserve funds that agencies stockpile. The Human Services Dept. was chastised for keeping an undisclosed $20 million reserve in 1999, and more recently, a $29 million leftover reserve from last year.

8. End CIM/CAM: Over ten years ago, Kitzhaber and Katz forced a complete upheaval of our education system with an experimental idea called CIM/CAM. They re-invented an entirely “new” grading system much to the bewilderment of teachers and parents. They reinvented a “new” testing system, which has exploded in failure (last year 83 percent of students failed the “reinvented” math test). They reinvented teaching methods by adding new mandates, teaching subjects, and portfolio requirements that had nothing to do with core subjects. Now a decade later, Oregon’s national test scores show no significant rise in improvement. It is simply not worth the millions lost and the tragic loss of teacher freedom. It looks like education guru Rob Kremer was right all along about this failed program. Let’s abolish CIM/CAM, use affordable “off the shelf” testing like other states, and let teachers do what we pay them to do—teach.

9. Health care reform: Health Savings Accounts save government money and are being pioneered across the country. These tax-free accounts put people in charge of their own health care choices with built-in incentives for savings. Other savings would be to require arbitration before litigation, which can save 95 percent of a medical lawsuit. Proof of residency is not too much to ask of people using our health plan.

10. Abolish Urban Renewal: Tax increment financing rakes in over $100 million dollars annually of property tax revenue and is put into special urban renewal funds and operated by non-elected officials. Because these are dedicated funds they are out of reach of local governments and don’t have to compete with police, fire, and schools for funding. We have created a system where the least important priority of government (remodeling buildings, constructing gardens and fountains) has become the most protected expenditure of government.

All property tax revenue should go back to its intended destination of schools and local governments. All future urban renewal and political pork projects should be on equal level with police, school, and fire funds, and be voted on by an elected official.

140+ Bonus Ideas to Balance the State Budget Without New Taxes

Budget Reform
1. Continuous Improvement Program mandating agencies to bring forth efficiency ideas and recommendations.
2. Budget 90-day model mandate
3. Pass education budget first
4. Performance-based budgeting
5. Budget clarity by showing & separating capital costs, operational costs and personnel costs.
6. Budget clarity by sectioning out supplies, overtime, travel, reimbursements, memberships, etc.
7. Require overhead to be listed in budget
8. Statewide central database of all government property
9. Review possibilities of a central leasing property system. (Georgia)
10. Study on building construction comparison between other states and private sector. (Massachusetts)
11. Privatization audit, make recommendations.
12. Require committee to examine elimination/privatization of agency functions.
13. Create privatization office.

14. Reduce the $90 million Dept. of Ed bureaucracy.
15. Let school districts use state health insurance plan rather than getting their own.
16. Suspend some school mandates for two years.
17. Centralized payroll, data processing, and transportation.
18. Employee compensation limits.
19. Dollars to classroom—hire outside consultants to make recommendations by November ’06.
20. End CIM portfolio requirements.
21. Abolishes Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.
22. Refocus teachers on teaching—too many working certified teachers are not in the classroom.
23. End double testing by deleting written performance math test, keep multiple choice.
24. Reduce Education Service Districts.
25. Privatization of bus and food services. (Cascade Policy Institute)
26. Make certain student fees related to social/political use voluntary.
27. Use direct student assistance to finance higher education.
28. Create Oregon Parental Choice Tax Credit. (Cascade Policy Institute)
29. Allow school districts to establish their own adoption cycles.
30. Reduce the level of redundancy in what the state requires the districts to report.
31. Flexibility in substitute rules—allow districts to set their own rates.
32. Allow school districts to publish budget summaries on the web rather than in newspaper.
33. Allow a moratorium for districts complying with unfunded mandates.
34. Eliminate professor tenure—insist on performance-based pay systems.
35. Make state-funded financial aid and loan awards the same per student regardless of student’s college.
36. Eliminate funding of school driver education programs.

General Government
37. Reduce funding for private institutions like OHSU.
38. Conduct cost-benefit analysis of rules and requiring agencies to publish results.
39. Measure 66 referral to allow the 7.5 percent watershed portion of lottery proceeds to go toward education.
40. Expand citizen power over regulations. 41. Sell unprofitable State Trust Lands. (Cascade Policy Institute)
42. Allow purchase of equipment and supplies outside of the contracted supplier.
43. Consolidate Extended Service Districts.
44. On-Line Bidding Act. (Am. Leg. Exchange Council)
45. Greater accountability over SAIF.
46. Tax-Me-More fund option on citizens’ tax returns. (Arkansas)
47. Abolish Oregon Liquor Commission.
48. Sell state property.
49. Transfer apprenticeship program to Feds.
50. Limit government advertising.
51. Stop forced membership to agricultural commissions.
52. Allow Internet public notices.
53. Permit issuance time limits, reward applicant for lateness.
54. Privatize Child Support collection.
55. Refocus Economic Development Department. (Associated Oregon Industries)
56. Avoid any attempt to force public contracting law on private contractors. (Associated Oregon Industries)
57. Tap in to Energy Trust of Oregon funds.
58. Reduce middle management. (Associated Oregon Industries)
59. Reimburse state when agency overspends.
60. Tie fees/licenses to actual costs. (Associated Oregon Industries)
61. Stop adding new programs late in budget cycle.
62. Tax Amnesty program. (Connecticut)
63. Fifteen percent reduction in state vehicles. (Virginia)
64. Eliminate and consolidate commissions. (Associated Oregon Industries)
65. Sell State Fairgrounds. (Cascade Policy Institute)
66. Prioritization of government services into high (33%), medium (33%) and low (33%)
67. Stop fraud in the Unemployment Insurance program. (Texas)
68. Step review process.
69. Eliminate paper calendar purchases.
70. Brand name prioritization. (Arizona)
71. Review of mail processing for efficiency such as Internet and Pitney Bowes.
72. Allow credit card payments for taxes, fines, fees, licenses, and child support.
73. Collect overpayments to vendors.
74. Expand use of electronic forms.
75. State agency survey.
76. Require electronic fund transfers for all agencies that collect revenue for state’s general fund. (Nevada)
77. Freeze purchases of new vehicles.

Health & Human Services
78. Transfer State Commission on Children & Families Administrative costs to benefits.
79. Moratorium on health insurance mandates.
80. Stop health care fraud program. (Texas)
81. Strengthen eligibility requirements.
82. Privatize the Oregon Health Plan.
83. Foster home preference savings over assisted living centers for placing low-income seniors.
84. End food stamp overpayments.
85. Exclusionary or medical waivers (riders). (Amer. Leg. Exchange)
86. Eliminate managed care and go Fee-for-Service.
87. Billing process that allows individuals to have their employers deduct their individual health insurance premiums from their paychecks.
88. Mandated Benefit Reform: Cost analysis to assess new mandate’s impact on insurance premiums. 89. Interstate compact. (Amer. Leg. Exchange)
90. Health Care Choice Act: Allows individuals to purchase health insurance plans being sold in other states.
(Amer. Leg. Exchange)
91. Review and reduce any barriers to the erection of specialized hospitals.
92. Stop state coverage of surrogate mothers.

Labor Costs
93. Reward employees for savings.
94. Manager bonuses for savings.
95. Promote part-time and job share opportunities.
96. Allow college internships to fill state vacancies and short-term jobs.
97. Reduce payroll administration costs by using direct deposit and implementing payroll card systems.
98. Anti-fraud training program for state employees.
99. Creation of vanpools and teleconferencing.
100. Eliminate employee cell phones—use pagers.
101. Electronic communication prioritization. (email, Fax, web-hosting)
102. Cross-train enforcement staff.
103. Repeal the prevailing wage laws.
104. Small project prevailing wage exemption for projects under $100,000.
105. Compensation caps—requires employment agreement for public employee to fix maximum amount employer will pay toward compensation plan.
106. State salary cap to salary of governor.
107. Reduce out-of-state travel.

Land Use
108. Eliminate duplicity in DSL over wetlands.
109. Eliminate the Columbia Gorge Commission.
110. Expand Urban Growth Boundary.
111. Sell Elliott State Forest.
112. Secondary lands reform by identifying millions of acres of nonarable land incorrectly zoned farmland.
113. Replace vertical housing tax credit.
114. Open up timberland.
115. Outlaw second-hit System Development Charges that penalize remodeling.
116. Contract-out state park maintenance.

Legal Reform
117. Limit health care non-economic damages.
118. Limit civil action damages.
119. Allow legislature to impose limits on damages.
120. Empower government to remove troubled employees.

121. Set disability age to age of disabled worker.
122. Create a fourth tier Successor Plan.
123. Terminate PERS contract; restart new defined contribution plan like private sector’s standard 401K.
124. Eliminate the 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment in PERS.
125. Eliminate post-retirement medical insurance premiums coverage for PERS recipients.

Public Safety
126. Prison cost reform and privatization.
127. Privatization of Youth Authority.
128. Abolish the Criminal Justice Commission.
129. Collect suspended fines for traffic violations.
130. Prison Mobile Health Clinics for prisoners.
131. More volunteers for prison religious, substance abuse, and self-help programs to control staff costs. (Arizona)
132. Reduce indigent defense funds.
133. No funding of art programs above $1 million until public safety benchmarks are met.

134. A state “dashboard” project. (Virginia)
135. Privatize ODOT maintenance.
136. Stop diversion of road funds for bike paths.
137. Extend DEQ inspections for new cars. (New Jersey)
138. Moratoriums on medians, roundabouts and bubble curves.
139. Reduce ODOT engineers.
140. Privatize the motor racing commission.
141. Eliminate insurance coverage of unused state vehicles. (Kentucky)

Special thanks to Wayne Brady and Genevieve Weichel, who contributed information for this report. For more detailed information on these budget savings ideas, call visit www.OregonWatchdog.com

BrainstormNW - February 2005

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