ST. PAUL– Representatives Joyce Peppin (R - Rogers), Keith Downey (R - Edina) and Minority Leader Kurt Zellers (R - Maple Grove) unveiled a package of government reform bills today. The proposals include a Sunset Commission to review and retire unnecessary or duplicative government operations, consolidating the state’s vehicle fleet and using business intelligence tools for savings and efficiency.
Minority Leader Kurt Zellers commented on these proposals’ role as part of an overall strategy for state government reform.
“Deficits and uncertainty are harming our business climate and stifling economic opportunity. Today’s initiatives are part of our vision to rein-in government growth and costs, and to free our taxpayers, job providers and families from the burdens of unnecessary government,” said Zellers.
“The time for sideline discussion has passed. We are taking action to bring Minnesota government into the 21st century. We have more than just ideas. We have innovations to produce near-term savings and long-term cost solutions,” said Peppin.
Added Downey, “In order to advance our Minnesota legacy for the future, we simply cannot keep doing things the same way. We need to eliminate what is unnecessary and take bold action to make everything else more cost-effective.”
The Sunset Commission will help eliminate unnecessary and obsolete government activities by regularly reviewing the continued effectiveness of and need for state agencies and programs, including reviewing all proposals for the creation of new agencies and programs. The legislature would be required to act on the commission’s recommendation for closure, consolidation or continuation of reviewed agencies in the same session the review takes place.
The model for the Representatives’ proposal is the Texas Sunset Commission, which has saved Texas taxpayers over $780 million since 1982. In its first two years alone, it closed eight agencies and consolidated another four. Every dollar spent on the Texas Sunset Commission has produced $27 in savings.
“The strength of Sunset process is the process. The Commission provides an ongoing tool to reduce the cost of government, control bureaucratic growth and keep government focused on core priorities,” said Peppin.
The representatives proposed that the commission’s start-up costs be funded using savings from another reform proposal, fleet consolidation. States including Wisconsin and Colorado have achieved millions in savings by better managing and consolidating the state vehicle fleet. Illinois generated one-time savings of $1.1 million in 2004 by selling unneeded vehicles, with total savings of $5 million through fleet consolidation in FY 2004-05.
“We are building on the Pawenty administration’s efforts towards better fleet management with legislative action. This is a concrete example of restructuring Minnesota government and building in long-term savings,” said Downey, who is developing the fleet consolidation proposal.
Rep. Downey is also carrying a bipartisan reform initiative in the House to improve efficiency and find savings in state government and across layers of government. The Innovation Commission, authored in the Senate by Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL – Minnetonka) would develop a strategic plan for the state to improve cost-efficiency through new technology, shared services and other innovations.
“The possibilities for this commission are endless, from streamlining operations to eliminating entire layers of government, and from promoting privatization to utilizing new technologies,” said Downey. “It compliments Sunset by providing an outside lens and overarching plan to improve operations while Sunset takes to the overriding need for specific agencies and programs.”
Another component of the reform package implements business intelligence tools to modernize government operations and create savings. Business intelligence tools are commonly used in the private sector, and a leading practice among many state governments including Wisconsin, New York and North Carolina.
Rep. Peppin’s tax analytics bill employs predictive modeling to make revenue collection and auditing more efficient and fair. Wisconsin employed a pilot project in 2007, in which tax analytics identified $5.85 million in probable successful audits and achieved a 93% success rate, or $5.45 million. “This bill helps would increase state revenue by identifying people not paying what they owe. It also means less auditing and government interference for honest Minnesota taxpayers,” said Peppin.
Rep. Downey is offering a bill that applies the same technologies to identify and reject fraudulent Medicaid claims. New York and North Carolina are two examples of states that have saved millions by employing business intelligence tools to prevent Medicaid fraud. North Carolina estimates a net savings of $27 million in the first year of implementation (FY ’08-09), with more savings to follow. “Our taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability. Using new technology to reduce or eliminate fraud is the common-sense thing to do,” said Downey.
Both bills rely on vendor-based financing, meaning that costs are paid for through savings realized by the programs.
Downey also touched on the ongoing bonding debate by announcing a bill to require that bonding requests include a return on investment analysis. “If we are going to do bonding , then we must be assured it is with a focus on cost-effectiveness and results,” said Downey.
Representative Peppin concluded by addressing government’s need to better serve its customer, the citizens of Minnesota. “Minnesotans want a government that is focused on priorities. They want a government that is lean, responsible and accountable. We are taking action to deliver the positive results Minnesotans want and deserve.”