A couple items from Wisconsin. Menzie Chinn points out how governor Scott Walker, who claims a deficit to be the compelling reason for eliminating collective bargaining rights for public workers, also thinks the way to save money is to have government ignore cost vs. benefit analyses when making decisions. Actually, Walker doesn’t even want the analysis done in the first place. His mind is made up. Private contractors will always be cheaper in his eyes, and he doesn’t need any stinkin’ facts or analyses to get in the way.
Digression: Eliminating Benefit-Cost Analysis?
Here is something that struck me — as someone who teaches in a public affairs school with courses in policy analysis — as odd, particularly in a time when resources are limited. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal would eliminate a law requiring state agencies to study the costs and benefits of outsourcing work.
That provision and others in the GOP governor’s 2011-’13 budget drew questions from both Republicans and Democrats at a briefing Tuesday before the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.
Current law says agencies must compare the costs of having private contractors do work costing more than $25,000 against what it would cost to have state workers do the job.
Speaking to the Joint Finance Committee, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said that the law was cumbersome and required an analysis of contractor costs to be done even in cases where state workers couldn’t do the work.
“We did a cost-benefit analysis on the cost-benefit analysis and found it was costing us money,” Huebsch told the committee.
That analysis is definitely one I would love to see. (I am hopeful that the “we” in the passage refers to him and staff.) The article continues.
Under Walker’s bill, the cost-benefit analyses would be retained only for engineering services at the state Department of Transportation.
The proposed change drew questions from Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee). Olsen said he didn’t want to burden state agencies with red tape but also wanted to make sure that agencies weren’t spending money unwisely in a time of tight budgets.
“Can you explain why, when we’re in a time of serious fiscal trouble, we would not want to do a serious cost-benefit analysis? . . . When you are cutting government and cutting programs, you can’t afford to make mistakes,” Olsen said.
In May 2009, a legislative audit found that the state Department of Transportation outsourced 125 construction engineering projects over 16 months even though it determined each one of them could have been done for less using state workers.
Using state workers instead of outsourced engineers could have saved $1.2 million during that period, the Legislative Audit Bureau report found.
State officials are often reluctant to hire more workers because of concerns that they will have to pay those costs for years into the future. Contractors, while sometimes more expensive, are paid on a project-by-project basis.
For those interested in learning about CBA, see this collection.
It’s a strange way to get more value out of government money. But then this is the same governor who thinks selling off state-owned assets without a competitive bidding process will get the best price for the state.
In the same posting at Econbrowser, Chinn points out that the state government has chosen to defy a court judge, not once but twice, and go ahead with implementation of a law against the judge’s injunction. The state is preparing to spend thousands of dollars fighting the judge and appealing when all they really need to do is pass the law in the legislature again, only this time conforming to the state’s open meetings law.
It’s not about the state deficit in Wisconsin. It’s about power and cronyism. It clearly isn’t about the rule of law.