Archive for Friday, December 26, 2008

Opportunity knocks?

Maybe there’s a chance for some positive action to come out of the state’s current financial crisis.

December 26, 2008


“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”

This recent statement by Rahm Emanuel, President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff designate, may seem a bit cavalier, arrogant, or even an indication that current conditions provide Obama the opportunity to impose long-lasting policies he never could dream of achieving in good times. However, other government officials at all levels probably understand what Emanuel was getting at.

In fact, that philosophy may come in handy during the upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature.

The current financial crisis facing the state and nation may give lawmakers an opportunity to think creatively and look at ways to streamline government operations. Some of that streamlining may involve stepping on some toes, but it also may result in some long-overdue action to reduce government bureaucracy and improve efficiency.

For instance, in a column earlier this month, Kansas University law professor Mike Hoeflich discussed ways that legislators and the Kansas Board of Regents might consider trimming the state’s higher education costs. Hoeflich’s primary idea was for the state to carefully examine duplication of programs at its university campuses. Rather than cut all programs equally, he suggested, it might be better to eliminate the weakest programs and preserve the budgets of the strongest ones.

Of course, this would be a politically difficult proposition. No campus wants to lose programs. People in authority — regents or lawmakers — would have to make the best decisions they could and force universities to accept them.

Another example arose just this week. In light of the state’s current financial situation, there are plans to revive a proposal to merge two small agencies — the State Conservation Commission and the Animal Health Department — into the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Legislative auditors estimate the move would save the state about $710,000 a year, or $3.5 million over five years.

The state’s secretary of agriculture and at least some legislators think the merger could be a good idea. Predictably, the heads of the two agencies do not. The idea, they say, needs more study.

In prosperous times, it’s easy for the state to put off tough decisions about such issues as university duplication or bloated bureaucracy. Facing a $141 million deficit for this year and as much as $1 billion next year gives legislators a certain amount of cover for decisions that might be politically impossible in better financial times.

That’s where the opportunity comes in. The state is in dire financial straits but there may be an opportunity to make those lemons into lemonade.


Michael Throop 9 years, 3 months ago

And, those of us amongst the unwashed,who are not "policy makers" or even "community organizers" DO read it another way. Use a "crisis" to grab more government power, and quickly, with the approval of the lap-dog mainstream media.Emmanuel will be, in fact,already is, the "man behind the curtain" in the incoming White House. Contrary to his fawning supporters, Barack Obama is an empty suit, who depends on others for original ideas. He has none to bring to the table, save for "change",and that idea is wide enough to drive a truck through.Democrats and their liberal hounds have been biding their time for years, for decades, to get back in the driver's seat,and institute spendrthift policies and programs, married to smothering regulations and requirements for the "rich"(read successful and intuative). We can only hope the public awakens from its slumber in two years to stem this tide and get Republicans back in the majority to derail this socialist train.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 3 months ago

Read the two books that Obama has written and then claim he has no ideas of his own. He graduated from Harvard Law School which means he has studied business law and international law which means he will be going into the Presidency with a very good understanding of what is going on. He has also studied Constitutional Law which will come in handy in his new job.

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