The state's pursuit of efficiency is rife with inefficiencies.
It’s horrifying, really, how many redundant, overlapping organizations we have created to pursue more efficient government. There are more than half a dozen, not counting legislative committees — whose commitment to efficient government extends no further than the next special-interest provision — and not counting Gov. Charlie Crist’s nine “citizen review groups.”
If we can’t be efficient in pursuing efficiency, what hope is left?
“Government should be more productive, more effective, more efficient, but many people don’t know how to do it. ”
— Dominic Calabro, president and CEO, Florida TaxWatch
Republican Sen. Don Gaetz of Nice-ville laughs at the suggestion. He’s partly in charge of one those organizations, the Joint Legislative Sunset Committee (Rep. Kevin Ambler is the House co-chair), which is supposed to review every state agency over an eight-year cycle. “It’s such a great issue, everyone wants to be involved in it,” Gaetz says with a touch of sarcasm. “It’s government people asking government people if there’s too much government. It’s like asking your insurance agent if you have too much insurance.”
Over at Florida TaxWatch, the privately funded watchdog of taxes and spending, President and CEO Dominic Calabro isn’t troubled by the redundancy, but he is troubled by the absence of any “accountability and results-oriented procedures” to ensure that recommendations are systematically put into place.
Government efficiency is one of the most popular toys on the political playground. No one pursuing efficiency ever really cuts anything. They create procedures to let other people consider cutting something.
These commissions and committees mostly dance around the real issue in effective government: Political results always trump managerial results. We elect people on the basis of political positions, not management ability, and they in turn hire agency managers who accommodate political interests and work compliantly within the system of risk-averse, controlling rules that the politicians set up.
Set up all the review committees you want, but only a very strong-minded governor with serious management experience and a certain lack of political ambition is going to change that. And he’ll need to appoint creative, determined, experienced management that can provide both political results and high performance — a move that might require paying higher salaries.