As a former state senator and commissioner of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, I recently sent a letter to the Legislature and the governor explaining that there is a third option they should consider to solve the state’s budget crisis besides raising taxes and cutting needed services.
That option is making agencies run more efficiently using private sector practices. Having held positions on both sides, I came to realize that part-time legislators are no match for full-time agency bureaucrats’ excuses to protect the status quo. You cannot put enough corn in their trough.
By implementing common-sense business practices at ATC, we were able to cut the number of employees in half, cut the budget by over 35 percent, reduce the number of state vehicles in half and return millions of dollars to the state. We did all this while reducing the number of days to get a permit from 35 to three and increasing fines/enforcement by 1,000 percent.
The way we did it was not complicated, but it was not easy and it was controversial. Many state employees fought me tooth and nail. I was sued over a dozen times, with two lawsuits going all the way to the state Supreme Court, but I never lost a single case. I attacked the complacent culture of state government by requiring employees to punch a time clock, by putting GPS on state vehicles, by instituting minimum work requirements, by disciplining and, in some cases, firing underperforming employees and by simply demanding an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.
Legislators and our new governor have some tough decisions to make. I believe most taxpayers want them to find and exhaust all possibilities before raising our taxes and cutting needed services. Demanding that state agencies implement private sector policies that businesses use every day would be a good starting point.
former state senator and ATC commissioner