Thursday, June 9, 2011

Senate GOP Calls for State Finance Reforms

Senate Republicans have filed a series of amendments designed to give the state’s taxpayers a better sense of how their tax dollars are being spent by promoting cost-saving measures and requiring more transparency and accountability in the handling of the state’s finances.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) are offering the amendments as part of a bipartisan, comprehensive finance reform bill up for debate in the Senate on Thursday. All four Republicans are co-sponsoring the bill, which contains a number of Caucus priorities, including a debt affordability study and periodic performance management reviews to root out waste and duplication throughout state government.

Included on the Caucus’ list of amendments is a proposal directing the Secretary of Administration and Finance and the Governor to develop a zero-based budget for all state agencies and departments every four years, a proposal that Senator Tarr describes as a crucial tool to ensure that the expenditure of every taxpayer dollar is justified and sustainable.

“Moving to a zero-based budgeting process will enable the Commonwealth to more effectively allocate its limited resources by not only helping to identify and eliminate waste, but also by allowing us to focus on real priorities as opposed to unnecessary spending,” said Senator Tarr. “The Caucus has several other ideas for achieving these goals and for promoting cost savings and other efficiencies. We hope our Senate colleagues will support these proposals, and we look forward to a spirited debate on these issues today.”

Other amendments proposed by the Caucus would:

• require the Governor to prepare a biennial plan for maximizing personnel efficiencies and controlling personnel costs;

• require the Department of Revenue to develop and utilize one or more dynamic models for analyzing the true economic impact of tax incentives, rebates and other programs, including economic growth and job creation;

• establish a new unpaid Commonwealth Competition Council to explore concepts and programs to spur innovation and competition in state government, and to identify opportunities for privatization to improve cost-effectiveness;

• direct the state Treasurer to utilize electronic paystubs for employees who receive direct deposit;

• require all state departments, boards, commissions, authorities and agencies that use an electronic answering service to provide callers with the option of speaking with a live operator during regular business hours;

• require any state agency that expends $100,000 or more on consultants to file an annual report with the Legislature detailing the reasons necessitating the use of these consultants; and

• require more information to be posted on the Legislature’s website for public consumption, including the findings of the new independent debt affordability committee created in the bill, which is charged with ensuring that the Commonwealth can afford any proposed borrowing. Currently, the state ranks among the highest in the nation in per capita indebtedness.