Governor Jodi Rell has called the state's financial troubles scary, but she says it is also an opportunity to streamline government. She will lay out the specifics of how she wants to do that in Wednesday's budget address, but she started the week by inviting a national budget guru to lay out his approach.
David Osborne rose to prominence in the 1990s, when his book "Reinventing Government" catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list. It became a workplan of sorts for the Clinton administration. Republican Governor Jodi Rell invited Osborne to speak to legislators in Hartford, because she says this fiscal crisis demands some reinventing here.
"It is a golden opportunity for all of us to make remake a stronger Connecticut without losing our core missions - education, public safety, and caring for our needy." But early in his talk, Osborne made clear that he disagrees with Rell about at least one thing. She says that raising taxes will only deepen the problems. Osborne says avoiding tax hikes is not an option.
"Frankly, the idea that Connecticut can get through this without raising any taxes or fees, or without deep cuts in spending, is I think a fantasy." Osborne advocates turning the budgeting process on its head. Instead of starting with the last budget and cutting from there, he wants lawmakers to first determine how much they are willing to spend, and then set funding priorities. Then, agencies would be held accountable for meeting specific objectives.
"You get a process where all the energy focuses on what are we going to keep. 95 percent of the energy usually focuses on what are we going to cut, and what you keep just slides through unexamined. This process looks at everything, and the cuts just fall out." Washington and Iowa are among the states using the approach. But if attendance at Osborne's talk was any indication, it does not look like a budgeting revamp is coming this year. Neither the Democratic House or Senate Appropriations chairs were there.
Governor Rell Addresses State in Evening Address