Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ALEC's Lackeys: King and Keith

In an attempt to pivot away from the consequences of the budget cuts they insisted upon, Minnesota Republicans want to change the conversation. Last week, Republican legislative leaders held a press conference to announce "Reform 2.0." Currently lacking details, Reform 2.0 is supposed to gather ideas through citizen input, but it's more likely to be warmed over leftovers from the last session. It's a virtual certainty that the Reform 2.0 agenda will look almost exactly like the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) agenda for "state government reform." The 2010 Republican "reform agenda" was cribbed from ALEC, and 2011 will feature more of the same. And in today's episode of ALEC's Lackeys, we'll look at two of the most "reform-minded" Republican members of the House - Reps. Keith Downey and King Banaian.

The Minnesota GOP's "reform (1.0 and 2.0) agenda" seems to be drawn directly from ALEC's 2011 "State Budget Reform Toolkit" in both word and spirit. If you go line by line through the list of ALEC's "Index of Recommendations," the parallels are striking. The deep, original reform ideas of Rep. Keith Downey are nothing more than rewarmed ALEC boilerplate. The dazzling budgetary wizardry of Rep. King Banaian is cut and pasted from the ALEC playbook.
ALEC Recommendation: The legislature should require each agency to have a mission statement with goals and objectives linked to the state’s core functions of government.
ALEC Recommendation: States should adopt a Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO) approach to bring sanity and fiscal sustainability to the state budget process.
At the top of all Minnesota Republican talk about the budget is a buzzword - "priority-based budgeting." That was the basis for Rep. Banaian's HF2, one of the core priorities of the House GOP.
ALEC Recommendation: States should create a permanent sunset review commission to recommend ways the state can cut costs, reduce waste, and improve efficiency and service levels.
HF2 also included a "sunset commission" that would force all state agencies to appear in front of a panel to justify their existence or be eliminated. This was rolled into SF1047 (the omnibus state government bill) which was eventually vetoed by Governor Dayton.

When you get to "Section IV: Tools to Control Cost and Improve Government Efficiency" in ALEC's toolkit, the similarities with the legislative agenda of Keith Downey are downright eerie.
ALEC Recommendation: Adopt a state hiring freeze encompassing all departments.
ALEC Recommendation: Policymakers should delay automatic pay increases for state employees until the rising costs of government are brought under control.
ALEC Recommendation: Increase the use of privatization and competitive contracting to execute tasks to lower costs and improve the quality of service provided.
ALEC Recommendation: Develop a program (or programs) for state employees to allow them to be rewarded for savings generated by new innovations or re-engineering of existing business practices.
HF4: Mandates a 15% reduction in state workforce by 2015 by using a combination of hiring freezes, furloughs, and early retirement incentives.
HF192: The "Reinventing Government Employment Act" would freeze salaries, benchmark future salaries based on a review process, implement an employee "gainsharing program" where employees who save money get a share of the savings, force state employee units to bid for contracted services against private contractors, and propose a constitutional amendment to make Minnesota a "right to work (for less)" state.
ALEC Recommendation: States should adopt a constitutional revenue or spending limit. Such a limit would impose much needed discipline on profligate spending patterns.
ALEC Recommendation: Pass a balanced budget requirement, mandating that the expenditures included in the budget for the next fiscal year shall not exceed estimated revenues, and create a protected emergency reserve account.
HF1612: Proposes a constitutional amendment limiting spending to the revenue taken in the previous biennium.
HF67: Limits spending in the 2012-13 biennium to forecasted revenues.

Please do go and read the ALEC playbook, erm, "toolkit," if you haven't already. Reform 2.0 will be more of the same. Book it.

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