The Edmond Sun

Opinion

January 7, 2013

Let’s measure costs, benefits of government programs

OKLA. CITY — In a lengthy news article last month (“Brownback says his changes in Kansas are a model for the nation”), The Kansas City Star reported that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has pushed through aggressive income-tax cuts, eliminated thousands of government jobs and reformed the state’s Medicaid system.

He also has reduced the welfare rolls in Kansas. “Among other things,” the Star reports, “the changes shortened lifetime limits for welfare recipients and began counting the income of a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend to decide how much a household receives.”

What’s more, the Star reports, Gov. Brownback “is just getting started. Now, backed with a growing legislative majority of conservative Republicans, Brownback stands ready to amp up his remake of state government in Kansas. His unapologetically bold agenda, backed with mounting political power, makes Kansas a proving ground for a range of conservative theory.”

Edmond residents might be especially interested in this nugget from the Star’s reporting: “Perhaps no one is more pivotal in Brownback’s call to limit spending than one of his first appointees, budget director Steve Anderson.” Mr. Anderson is a longtime Edmond accountant and a longtime research fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank.

One idea Anderson proposed several years ago for Oklahoma is now a reality — in Kansas. Forbes writer Ralph Benko notes that Anderson “is pioneering a method of accounting that holds government programs accountable for their cost-effectiveness — just like private-sector companies have to be. He’s posted it to the Kansas Budget Director’s Office website for the world to emulate. This is revolutionary.”

Sad but true: Common sense is now considered “revolutionary.”

That’s not the only national attention Anderson’s idea has received. As former Oklahoma finance director Tom Daxon recently explained in The Washington Examiner, “current accounting reviews tell us little about the actual cost of services and even less about whether those services actually accomplished their goals.” But Kansas “has introduced a dramatic new approach to report the costs and benefits of state programs. The effort’s early success helped give Kansas legislators the resolve to enact the biggest tax cut in state history, while balancing the budget. Kansas reduced 4,000 bureaucratic positions — mostly by attrition — and turned a half-billion-dollar deficit into a half-billion-dollar surplus.”

Daxon, himself the author of the 2009 OCPA report “Enhanced Financial Reporting for State Government: Comparing Cost to Performance,” says the key is to “insist that actual goals be established for each program and then measure progress toward those goals, both in terms of cost and effectiveness. … Then when opponents ask, ‘Which programs do you suggest we cut?’ the answer would be, ‘Those that aren’t meeting their goals.’ Or, ‘Those whose benefits don’t justify the cost.’”

Here’s hoping Oklahoma’s political leaders will follow Kansas’s lead and implement this Cost Management System in our state.

Doing so will help realize Gov. Mary Fallin’s vision — articulated in her foreword to last year’s edition of “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index” — of lower taxes and right-sized, effective state government.

 

BRANDON DUTCHER, an Edmond resident, is vice president for policy at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014

  • Tax deadline and no reform in sight

    The annual tax filing deadline, which comes next Tuesday, provides a good opportunity for tax reform advocates to decry the current law’s increasing complexity and inequities, and to urge enactment of a simpler, fairer system.

    April 10, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results