Monday, January 24, 2011

How To Save Arizona's Budget

This is a letter which I plan to send to our governor and every legislator in the state. Tell me what you think of it first.

1) Pass a law which states: “No government agency, bureau, department, etc. shall print, publish, use, maintain, etc. more than ten (10) separate and distinct bureaucratic forms.”

This simple law will save the state government about 40% of its budget, right there. How do I know? I used to work for the Welfare department in Michigan and Illinois, and I saw for myself that all the actual work done by the Welfare department could have been performed with no more than ten forms, including the inter-office memo. Instead, the department used over 1500 forms. Filling out all those forms took up most of the time of the caseworkers, preventing them from spending most of their time taking care of the clients. This necessitated hiring more caseworkers. All that paperwork also required hiring an army of clerks to file and maintain the forms. And of course, all those excess clerks and caseworkers required more managers, and the managers needed more forms to keep track of the performance of all those clerks and caseworkers. I saw for myself that of all the money the state allocated to Welfare, less than 50% went into the pockets of the poor; all the rest went to maintaining the department’s own bureaucracy. And it was all unnecessary! Since then I’ve learned that other government departments are even more wasteful, more clogged with paperwork and bureaucracy, than this.

2) Completely legalize Marijuana – and all products of the Hemp plant – and tax them 5% (no more, no less) at the point of sale. Also, “influence” all those “financial institutions” which are “friends” of the state government to “assist and encourage” start-up businesses processing and selling products of the Hemp plant.

Never mind all those pious (or Mafia-related) idiots who insist that Marijuana Is Evil, Marijuana Is A Gateway Drug, and all the other myths. The facts are that Marijuana is safer than aspirin: it has no lethal dosage, it’s not addictive, and it doesn’t “lead to” anything – except possibly cynicism over the intelligence of government. Marijuana was made illegal in the first place precisely in order to stop Hemp-industry development, which would otherwise have created serious rivals to existing chemical, timber and pharmaceutical companies. We need those rivals now, to restart our floundering economy.

3) Hire an efficient, and ruthlessly honest, accounting firm to go through the entire state bureaucracy with a fine-toothed comb, searching specifically for waste and how to stop it. Upon receiving the accounting firm’s report, act on it.

Yes, such efforts have been made before, but usually they have been done by government agencies themselves. The conflict of interest here should be obvious. A private firm, if chosen carefully, would have no such reservations.

If adopted, these three policies should pull the state of Arizona out of debt within a year.


Tom Dickson-Hunt said...

As regards #1--a good idea, but given the Law of Bureaucratic Expansion in conjunction with Murphy's, it would probably just result in each agency having precisely ten forms that comprise at least fifty pages each, with a subsection stating which of the purposes for which the form is intended it's actually doing. More specificity is needed.
#2,3 both seem like good ideas, though 3 also seems somewhat rose-colored.

Aya Katz said...

Leslie, legalize marijuana is simple and doable and a great idea. Notice that it will not require any forms at all. It will just do away with government meddling in personal matters.

I'm not so crazy about the other two ideas, though. I wouldn't hire an accounting firm to straighten up my own finances, as it would bankrupt me to have to pay them for their time. I'm not sure why you think the state of Arizona can afford this, or how it can possibly help the taxpayers.

As for limiting the number of forms, the best way to do this is to repeal the legislation that led to the use of the forms. Otherwise, how will you implement the measure? Which forms stay? Which forms go? Will they need a whole commission to study the problem?

Anonymous said...

I sent a link to your blog with a brief summary of what it was about to Governor Susana Martinez.

Anonymous said...

I'd also withdraw state cooperation from federal agencies like BATFE and the DEA.

Bob said...

There is a tension between allowing money to be spent, having no fraud, and having investigations into ways to save money.
The more investigations the more CYA, which generally includes a new form, so cuting forms means cutting CYA and that will go nowhere if more investigations happen. There are so many controls already in place and in use to prevent fraud, that sometimes you get Katrina: the money is there to rebuild the city, but is not spent because of fears of fraud. So the city is not rebuilt, but that is a win as there was no waste -- except the waste that the mission was not anywhere near accomplished.
Basically cutting paperwork and increasing scrutiny are opposites.
In CA we had a iivestigation find somethng like $!K of fraud or waste. It took 10K to do it. Who wins?

Leslie Fish said...

Good points about #3! Perhaps I should specify: "a forensic accountant company, preferably from out of state". Probably, also, it would be a good idea to have the accountants go through the system first.

--Leslie <;)))><

Anonymous said...

if the forms were online, and we only entered the data requested, reports could be generated in the forms requested, so that in the cases where you have had to fill in multiple forms with pretty much the same information, but in a different format or color or whathaveyou. Of course, data could flow into the fields needed and be kept online. Between Parks & Rec forms, esp. for kids, and school forms every parent hates, it would save many parents from aggrivation, and use much less paper.

In states where there is a large very rural or Native American population, and those areas are not well served by electricity, phone lines, or the internet, and where computers are few and far between (I'm thinking of the Navajo Nation right now), some solution has to be worked out, such as a central County/reservation set up where people can enter that information, after work hours (and travel time), with the assistance of a translator/transcriber if necessary.

In CA, when decriminalization of marijuana was being considered on the ballot, many Humboldt county pot farmers were against it, as it would cut into *their* profits. Most State & local law enforcement agencies were for it, because it might cut down on work for them, and keep the jails and prisons for those with more serious crimes.

I read the comments on #3, and if it can be done with less cost than possible savings, with no conflict of interest, or reason to cheat, let it be done.