Restructuring Update: déjà vu all over again?
S.22 ISN’T ABOUT SEPARATING POWERS. AND IT NEVER HAS BEEN.
On government restructuring, it’s déjà vu all over again. As happened last year, the Senate passed a weak restructuring bill, S.22, that would eliminate the Budget and Control Board (BCB) and replace it with an agency overseen by the same five politicians and with the same powers over bonding and procurement – the State Fiscal Affairs Authority (SFAA). And as also happened last year, the House has proposed an alternative bill, H.3646, that may be slightly stronger than the Senate bill but doesn’t concentrate accountability at all.
Instead of an SFFA, H.3646 would create the State Contracts and Accountability Authority (SCAA), another hybrid board of five executive officers and two legislators. The SCAA – these bills are replete with new agencies and their initials – is also given major authority over procurement (transactions involving “real property” over $500,000, for example), while a new “Division of Procurement Services” would take the functions previously exercised by the BCB with regard to the consolidated procurement code.
So let’s make things simple. There’s only one reason to restructure state government: to bring more accountability to our system of government. Increased accountability results in cost savings, simpler government, and greater efficiency. But these things are not the reason for restructuring government. With that in mind, there are a few key areas of power and lack of accountability that need to be addressed in any bill intended to restructure government by eliminating the Budget and Control Board and creating a Department of Administration.
Procurement should be an executive, not legislative function: it’s a conflict of interest for those who design projects and those who choose contractors for them.
Bonds directly result in state debt, which must be paid back by state appropriations. Bond authority therefore rightly belongs to the legislature, not an unaccountable and anonymous board. When the legislature issues debt foolishly, its members should be held accountable.
Deficit Recognition, or responsibility for agency budgets and fiscal analysis of bills, should lie with the legislature and Legislative Audit Council, not an unaccountable board.
In short: we won’t achieve the happy results of greater accountability – saving taxpayer dollars, increased efficiency – without first achieving greater accountability itself.