State Budgets

Special Williams Report: Bob’s Recommended Budget Savings Strategies for 2015

State Budget Solutions receives many requests for recommendations on budget savings/cuts. The list below is our current list. Please let me know if you have any additional recommendations:

Budget System
There is an urgent need to switch from the current input based budget system which takes the current budget and adds caseload increases, an inflation factor and some new programs and considers that the base budget or current level budget.  What is needed is to switch to an outcome performance based budget system that has the following characteristics:

  • Governor identifies his or her 5-10 core functions of government.
  • If agencies do not already have mission statements, the Governor should require all agencies to have a mission statement with the goals and objectives linked to one of the above core functions of government.
  • The Governor could appoint an advisory team that should include some representation from legislators; state employees; and agency directors.
  • The Governor should have a guidance team composed of about 10 state and local government, business and non-profit executives. This group is not intended to be representative of interest groups or subject matter expertise. Their role is to:
    • Provide an executive perspective and develop recommendations on the statewide vision that will maximize results to the citizens.
    • Bring an outside perspective to what is historically an “insiders game.”
    • Review, strengthen and affirm the work presented by the Advisory team.
  • The next step would be to appoint multi-agency “Results teams” representing each of the Governor’s core functions plus a team on state employee and teacher personnel practices including salary; health care; retiree health care and pension. The teams should have free reign to meet the core function. Each team would be composed of six to eight subject-matter experts in the executive branch of government with knowledge and appreciation for implementation, but still able to wear the “citizen’s hat” (as opposed to representing their agencies. The teams should be charged with developing Best Practices to accomplish the core functions and should assume they can change the rules if necessary to maximize the results from state government. Their efforts can build the case, if necessary, for removing barriers in the way of delivery results to the citizens. They should ask:
    • How will the state measure its progress in accomplishing those goals?
    • What will success look like and
    • What measurable outcomes can be identified?
    • What is the most effective way to accomplished the state’s goals with the money available?
    • If a service/program is a core function of government, what level of government should provide it?
    • How can services be provided efficiently and effectively?
    • How can market forces and competition be introduced into core functions, assuring costs are controlled and quality enhanced?
    • What programs and services make the most difference?
    • What can we consolidate?
    • What programs and services aren’t making as much of a difference?
    • What criteria can guide us in assessing value and deciding what should be funded?
    • What key indicators will tell us when we achieved the desired result and given people what matters most?

Implement recapture audits to recover improper payments.

Competitive Bidding
Implement competitive bidding for state services.

Criminal Justice System
Adopt Right on Crime reform recommendations.   

Federal Funding
Identify all the federal funding and mandates that come with that federal funding.  Have agencies submit a plan on how they will operate with a 5% and 25% reduction in federal funding. Utah has already done this.

Food Stamps
Make food stamps promote work, not welfare dependence.  The food stamp program is the fastest growing welfare program and the gateway to government dependence.  Taxpayers spent nearly $80 billion on food stamps last year, up from just $17 billion in 2000.  Food stamp spending is growing 10 times faster than federal revenues and 4 times faster than the rest of the budget. Reforms should include:

  • Restoring work requirements for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Restoring traditional categorical eligibility for SNAP
  • Restoring standard income thresholds for SNAP
  • Restoring asset tests for SNAP

Health Care

  • Patient centered health care (ALEC)
  • Access to direct primary care (ALEC)
  • Don’t expand Medicaid (ALEC/FGA/SBS)
  • Embrace innovation through telemedicine (ALEC)

Higher Education

  • Don’t raise tuition after a student starts college (i.e. Purdue)
  • $10,000 maximum cost for college degrees (i.e. some colleges in Texas).
  • Fund the student not the institution. Give the student so many credit hours and then stop state support. Would make colleges & universities more student centered.
  • Privatize parking lots and student dorms. Don’t build any more student dorms on college campus. Allow private sector to build dorms.
  • Stop mandatory fees for college athletics.
  • Implement higher education performance measures.

K-12 Education

  • What really matters is not whether the schools are high quality. It’s whether the children get educated.
  • Taxpayer money follows the child to a school his or her parents choose.
  • Competitive bid support services such as food services, custodial, maintenance, and transportation.
  • Expand use of digital education and high-quality digital learning.
  • Remediation courses in college. Charge high school for tuition for any high school graduate that needs a college remedial course.
  • Increase K-12 spending transparency to include:
    • Reporting at least 10 years of total per pupil expenditure data in accessible reports.
    • Report more compete expenditure data to include average salaries and benefits (including pensions).
  • Reduce growth in administrators and other staff.
    • FY 1950-FY 2009. 96% growth in students; 386% in total school personnel; 252% in teachers and 702% in administrators and other staff.

Privatize concessions at parks, like U.S. Forest Service is doing. 


  • Implement Defined contribution pension reform for all government employees.
  • Adopt prudent investor act for government pension systems

Competitive bid rest areas. Allow private sector to run the rest areas and the concessions.

Implement “Stop the Scam” initiative to e-verify. According to the FGA, between 5% and 25% of welfare spending has been found to be wasted or fraudulent.

In Depth: State Budgets

Smart budgeting is vital to a state’s financial health. The ALEC State Budget Reform Toolkit offers more than 20 policy ideas for addressing today’s shortfalls in a forthright manner, without resorting to budget gimmicks or damaging tax increases. One way to stabilize budgets over time is to embrace…

+ State Budgets In Depth