By Reforming Our Jurassic Era Government and Its Wasteful Philosophy of “Tax and Spend”
We have a structural problem in Maryland, but it isn’t limited to a structural deficit.
Our government was designed for an agrarian age that has long since vanished. We have a weak Legislature that meets for only three months at the beginning of each year, and a Board of Public Works that spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in a non-transparent manner the rest of the time. As a result, we have ill informed, part-time legislators more focused on reelection and retirement benefits than on managing government efficiently.
Administratively, we are locked into a labyrinth of: 1) spending mandates; 2) compartmentalized programs; 3) dedicated funding sources; and, 4) an all too evident lack of flexibility in management options.
I say it is time to begin reforming our Jurassic era government and its wasteful philosophy of “tax and spend”!
This philosophy evokes the old adage that “when you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” In the Annapolis context of taxes and spending, when politicians think that all they have to solve problems with is spending, every taxpayer looks like an ATM.
We must reorder the way we govern our state and right-size our government, orienting decision makers toward a more flexible, 21st century management model.
I support a two-pronged approach to retooling the Jurassic government structure in Annapolis.
First, we must redirect the focus of legislators toward their constituents’ needs and away from their own reelection.
Once elected, I will push to incorporate disincentives for career politicians to remain in office for decades (by eliminating their retirement benefits) and to curb their ability to doll out pork to interest groups.
The first piece of legislation I will sponsor will impose term limits. That is one check on political power that should have been passed decades ago.
In Common Sense, Thomas Paine argued that elected officials should “return and mix again with the general body of electors.” Thomas Paine believed in a system of citizen legislators and so do I.
Term limits guarantee a turnover of legislators, an interruption in the old-boy networks; they also bring in new, energized people with different skill sets and new ideas into government.
Most of all, term limits cut short the ambitions of politicians obsessed with their own careers. Let them sit out at least one term every eight years and live under the laws they pass for the rest of us!
Second, we need to implement more efficient and flexible forms of management in our government administration.
To begin, we have to restore the trust our civil servants have in government by guarantying that they will never again be used as pawns to balance the budget through furloughs and layoffs after a decades-long spending binge.
Then, we need to implement the best practices of performance based management in government. I advocate for the creation of results-oriented work environments (ROWE) in our administrative structures, where practicable.
ROWE allows managers and employees to create flexible work schemes, four-day work weeks, job sharing schedules, etc. The four-day work week was implemented last year in Nebraska with excellent productivity results; 80% of the workforce approves of it.
Our old model of management assumes that physical presence equals results. This new management model lets employees determine where and how they accomplish goals.
The results include a much better balance between work and family life; a reduction in expenditures for office overhead; less time wasted on commuting; and, less fuel being consumed. Our transportation system would have reduced demands upon it and we would put fewer pollutants into the air. Managers could spend more time coaching employees and less time disciplining them.
Conversely, some poor performing employees would no longer explain away low performance on the grounds of illness or a personal crisis. I have experienced this kind of work environment for a number of years myself and I can testify that it really works.
It’s not a question of “if,” but “when” we will shift from Jurassic government toward oversight by citizen legislators and 21st century management. I simply want to accelerate this process.