In 2010, the state electorate gave a vote of confidence to a new wave of state-level office holders. Nearly all of these candidates ran on a conservative platform of small government. I have closely observed the performance of these new office holders. Would they follow through on their conservative promises or would they become co-opted by their respective bureaucracies?
Being in the Legislature allows me to see firsthand where rhetoric meets reality. Not all candidates who run on conservative fiscal values actually manage their bureaucracies with those values. I have been discouraged as more than one “conservative” state office holder has either failed to apply conservative fiscal values and argued for more taxpayer largess or fought against reform and accountability. In this respect they are not unlike the status-quo bureaucrats whose foremost interest is the power of government rather than fiscal conservatism. You see, fiscal conservatism runs exactly opposite to the empire-building instincts of many government agency heads.
Based on my observations, I feel it important to provide a couple examples of office holders who resist this temptation and have applied conservative values to the way they run their agencies.
State Treasurer Ken Miller caught the attention of many policy makers when he submitted his budget request to the Legislature earlier this year.
Miller actually did something few will remember ever occurring before. Even though the state has more income this year than last, Miller asked the Legislature to cut his department’s budget by five percent. He would later jokingly say that he suspects he will be the one department head who actually gets everything he asked for.
Miller explained that his office needs less taxpayer funds due to his office’s use of technology and spending reductions.
This is so refreshing to hear. I have become accustomed to bureaucracies who take advantage of technology to save money but don’t admit to the savings. This allows them to backdoor the savings into other areas of the agency. Some agency heads might even claim that technology modernization costs them funds as a way of attempting to leverage even more funding from the Legislature.
By implementing cost saving policies, resisting the temptation to cover up the savings, and allowing taxpayers to realize the benefit of those savings, Miller has shown that his heart is in the right place as an office holder and as our State Treasurer.
Likewise, state Labor Commissioner Mark Costello recently provided the Government Modernization Committee with a presentation of his department’s budget position. Costello is not asking for an increase in his agency’s appropriations. Costello specifically pointed to the consolidation of the state’s IT infrastructure as a leading reason for why his budget should not increase. Costello is also providing an example of an office holder who is resisting the temptation to cover up savings in order to lobby for more taxpayer dollars even though state government has more money to spend this year.
Either Costello and Miller don’t know the rules of the game or they are actually honest office holders who refuse to lie in order to get more money from taxpayers.
These two office holders are following through with their promise to the voters. As a policy maker who has become accustomed to dealing with money hungry agencies, I find their example to be most refreshing.
Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.