Time for Government Streamlining
Winston Churchill famously said that a pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity and an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. In that spirit, it’s time for all of us to start being optimists and look at the state’s revenue situation as an opportunity to get government spending right.
We see this in the private sector every time there is a downturn. Companies get leaner and more efficient. Sometimes this involves staff reductions, but it can also mean investing in technology to make the job faster or easier, eliminating underperforming product lines and concentrating on core services. Government should emulate this practice.
Streamlining now will mean Oklahoma is ready to spring back when the energy sector turns around. Short-term solutions like raising taxes on business digs a deeper hole that will only serve to delay and reduce the rate of wage and job growth when the economy rebounds.
Last session, lawmakers created a new system to look at business incentives to make sure they are cost-effective and working as intended. This process is fully supported by the State Chamber so that decisions about keeping or eliminating programs are based on the facts and performance of each one. The same now needs to be done for every aspect of government spending. Duplication of efforts needs to be eliminated, non-core services need to be scaled back and resources should be focused on the areas of greatest importance.
At the same time, the state’s budget process needs to be modernized. Government should follow the business model of multi-year strategic spending plans and revenue forecasts that utilize best practices. This provides the kind of certainty businesses look for when deciding where to locate new operations. No one can predict or prevent a downturn, but with the proper budgeting procedures in place it will pose less of a problem.
Difficult financial times force us to make decisions that are often put off when revenue is flowing in. But creating a process that scrutinizes all spending will have rewards long after the revenue picture brightens. Now is the time to get into good habits that will reap benefits for years to come.
This article was posted in The Journal Record as part of Fred Morgan's monthly opinion editorial.