With official revenue estimates that came out this past week showing that the State of Michigan isn't taking in as many tax dollars as expected, word is circulating that Republican leaders in Lansing may be thinking about actually cutting expenses.
Now would be a good time to remind everyone what candidate Rick Snyder ran on in 2010: "Value for Money Budgeting".
Though he was not my choice in the 2010 primary, as a CPA and conservative, it was pretty exciting to hear candidate and fellow CPA, Rick Snyder, talk about the need for state government to measure the outcomes of tax dollars spent and then work to ensure those dollars are spent in a way that maximizes value. Admittedly, it is difficult to implement, because when you identify outcomes that are valued highly...it also means that you are saying other outcomes are not as valuable - which can ruffle feathers. Corporate welfare comes to mind as a "less valuable" way to spend our state money. Empty mass transit buses would be another. Billions have been identified.
During the four years I was in Lansing after Governor Snyder was elected, he visited our caucus seven or eight times. He often asked if anyone had general questions. I regularly asked him, "When are we going to implement 'value for money budgeting'?" The answer was always something like, "We're working on it." Yeah...
There has only been one Appropriations subcommittee chairman that has ever done Value for Money Budgeting - Senator Pat Colbeck. During 2011 - 2014, he chaired the Appropriation subcommittees over the Michigan State Police and Michigan Department of Veterans Affairs. Unlike any other committee, his hearings entailed wrangling with the state departments over which metrics and performance measurements should be used and what outcomes should be expected with the taxpayer money allocated. That's the right way and he was able to get parts of his work into statute. Senator Colbeck's reward for being the only one who got it right? These next two years, it appears he is the only returning GOP Senator to not be appointed to a chairmanship.
There was one other victory, though short-lived, pushing the state toward Value for Money Budgeting. During the budget process of 2012, I was able to get floor amendments into the large budgets that required those departments to identify the top 10 measureable outcomes that they felt were most beneficial to taxpayers. Though law, the administration refused to comply – the budget director claimed that these department scorecards met the requirements. Now, the measurements in those scorecards along with Colbeck's statutory changes are a start. However, during the budget process every year, each Appropriations subcommittee should hold focused hearings with the state departments to debate which metrics should be used, how best to ensure the measurements are accurate and what outcomes are to be expected with the dollars allocated to them. Here's hoping the recently appointed Appropriation committees will do that.
We...you and I, should be able to ask any of the House or Senate Appropriations members and for that matter, ask any Michigan legislator how much a specific department is allocated in the upcoming budget, what the main outcomes will be for that money and how those outcomes are measured. I asked Appropriations members that every year and I was never given specific answers. We should be able to get specific answers. And be able to hold state departments and legislators accountable for the outcomes.
Finally...roads. After we defeat the huge tax increase vote on May 5, at the ballot box - then, the Governor and legislature will have to get down to prioritizing the $52+ billion of existing tax dollars. They can find the money for roads - and the best way to do that would be for the Governor to fulfill his 2010 campaign promise and implement Value for Money Budgeting. If he wants to know how it's done - he can just ask Senator Colbeck.