Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Performance Based Budgeting" is a Non Sequitur

I see that the "Commission for a New Mississippi" wants a "performance based" budgeting structure. Presumably, the head of the Commission, Lieut. Gov. Bryant, hopes to use this "feel good" idea to run for Governor in 2011.

But how, exactly, does it work? If drug-related crime goes UP, has the Bureau of Narcotics failed to perform? Does its budget get cut the next year? If the teen pregnancy rate goes UP, has the Department of Health failed to perform? Does its budget get cut?

Obviously not, in both cases: the statistics would show that those agencies needed more resources, not less, to address the problems under their charge. They may need better strategies, but not less funding.

The basic problem is that the performance of government services is difficult, if not impossible, to assess by objective criteria. Only by the judicious use of discretion -- the type held by the Legislature -- can the value judgments be made in my examples and in many other similar scenarios.

So the Legislature is structured to give committee chairs absolute power over their fiefdoms? And this makes it difficult to hold agencies accountable? Fix THAT problem by requiring committees to meet at regular times set by the Speaker and LtGov, and by allowing committee members to insist on bills being considered.
Otherwise, all the budgeting tricks in the world won't help.


1 comment:

Casey Ann said...

Abstinence only training has been shown time and again not to work. When that program is eliminated, then I'll know they're serious about performance based budgeting.