A Good Idea From Kilgore

Criticize Jerry Kilgore all you want for not specifically funding his proposals, but at least he is the candidate of ideas in this election.

His latest idea sounds like a winner to me:

Kilgore plans to reward state agency heads who are fiscally responsible by reinvesting 75 percent of their budget surpluses in the general fund, and allowing for 25 percent of those surpluses to go back to employees as one-time bonuses.

Kilgore says that this type of program will put more money in the General Fund so that it can used for transportation and for more spending on schools.

Now, I’m not sure this will produce enough “savings” to be declared more than a “drop in the bucket” by the likes of Russ Potts and the editorial board tax lobby, but it’s a commonsense, good management approach that right now is totally absent from state government. It is high time sometime declared that the objective isn’t to spend it all and grow the bureaucracy. The objective is to provide quality government services at the lowest possible cost.

As an aside, was this proposal in the can long ago, or was it the result of the apparent rapproachment with George Fitch? Whatever the case, it sounds good to me.


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  1. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Yikes. So if i am a state manager say of DEQ and I find out that a spill has occurred ina creek that will take a couple hundred thousand dollars to clean up, but is in a remote area that very few people will ever know about, am I expected to deal with the spill or shut up and laugh all the way to the bank when my “savings” are returned to my personal bank account?

    I know this is an extreme example, but this plan has some strange quirks. Government is not a business no matter how much people want to make it operate as such.

    How about this option. Set up benchmarks for performance efficiencies. Then take the savings from those efficiencies and drop those into a cafeteria plan for team members to pick from?

    As a complete aside, did any of y’all check out the new “Help Jerry Celebrate His Birthday” deal on his website. I don’t know why, but this thing caught my funny bone. It seems that Jerry’s handlers have arranged a away for all of his online friends – and who among us doesn’t have special online friends wink, wink, nod, nod – wish him a happy birthday, and make a campaign donation if they feel especially motivated.

    http://www.jerrykilgore.com/happybirthday/

    I imagine once Jerry is in office that his birthday will become an official state holiday. I don’t know why, but this strikes me as tacky and funny, all at once.

  2. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Happy birthday, Jerry.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures.

  3. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I guess every candidate has to come up with fool-proof proposals or their ideas are worthless.

    Maybe that’s the appeal of Russ Potts. He’ll “put everything on the table” after you elect him. The ideas that get picked off the table, whether they were debated or even revealed in the campaign or not, will surely be foolproof.

    I’m not saying the 75-25 idea is perfect. I actually would rather that 100% of the unspent funds went into the General Fund, but the agency’s budget wouldn’t be penalized for “not spending it all” unless they had discovered a structural cut.

    The point is that Kilgore has identified how he might manage his agency heads. I don’t know if people unfamiliar with state government recognize how important that is. We debate all sorts of issues where the Governor has no more power than to express his opinion. A Governor does have power over his agency heads and more questions ought to be asked about how the candidates would use that power.

  4. Will:

    If he uses the Allen approach to managing agency heads – putting his friends housewives (nice ladies but incompetent) at the head of agencies – then we won’t be seeing many of these surpluses.

    I remember one incident during the Allen administration when they asked the foster care agency about whether it was a good idea for foster parents to spank their foster kids. The social workers at the agency unanimously said “NO!” and cited lots of studies with abuse.

    Then the hack agency head overruled them.

    Look for more of the same under Kilgore.

    At least Gilmore put decently competent people in there.

  5. Kudos for Kilgore: Because performance based state budgeting with incentives, such as an employee bonus, are excellent ideas.

    The key to efficiency is to streamlining state government, not expanding it.

    ~ the blue dog

  6. James Young Avatar
    James Young

    Will 11:25 — That Russ Potts embraces them is the surest indication that his ideas are not “fool-proof.”

  7. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Steve, with all due respect what you just posted are a lot like Kilgore’s ideas – buzzwords.

    His idea will not streamline, it will simply encourage bureaucrats to put more fluff in their budgets as wiggle room. Nope, the hard hitting questions, and they are far, far too detailed and wonkish for a campaign bumpersticker, will have to be answered in terms of bang for the buck. I suggest both candidates head striaght up to Washington State and interview Gary Locke. I thin kthat state does performance measures the best as they don’t look at agencies, they look at services first. Pretty wonky stuff, I know for this early in a campaign.

    i do agree with Will, this stuff does matter and these are areas where the Governor can have enormous impact. Kudos for the topic – it beats debating Herndon’s management of legal and illegal aliens.

  8. That’s a really good point. This basically creates an incentive for agency heads to request extremely bloated budgets so they can see a windfall from surplus funds.

    it took a group of 10 bloggers 5 minutes to discover this point – and Kilgore’s campaign team couldn’t figure it out.

    Makes you wonder whether he’s hiring incompetent people to come up with ideas for state government.

    And he’ll probably bring those incompetents into state government with him, along with a healthy supply of house wives (ala Allen).

    Hire housewives: The Allen/Kilgore way

  9. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Just because Kilgore did not say, “I will not tolerate bloated budget requests as a way to get around this management tool” or “I will not tolerate failing to clean up spills as a way to get big bonuses” does not mean he, his campaign team, or the director/hack he puts in charge will not ensure that loopholes are closed.

    I know everybody is cynical and the Feiler Faster principle rules, but it’s incredible that a guy puts out an idea one day and the next day we’re told that cagey hack bureaucrats, most of them housewives in fluffy slippers, will render the idea totally ineffectual.

    No wonder no one takes on the bureacracy. They are the most powerful force in Virginia, to hear our commenters tell it.

  10. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Hmmmm…You don’t reckon that Vehrs–a state agency employee–would be eyeing one of these “Kilgore bonuses” for himself, do you?

    Nah…It must be all altruism and, unfortunately for our beloved GOP, one of Kilgore’s brighter ideas.

  11. Terry M. Avatar

    Apparently many of you think agencies actually get the budgets they request. Hardly. Further, the staff analysts in the money committees and at DPB take a cold hard look at the budgets and all requests.

    I think this is a far better proposal than most of you give it credit for being. However, it will change things very little since IT funding for many of the smaller agencies actually comes out of the end of year left-overs and I doubt that will change any time soon.

  12. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Yes, anonymous 2:18, I’m in it for the money, even though I said I disagree with the employee 25% part.

    I invite you to check out what I do for the state. I have created one of the most popular and widely used services offered by the state and I did it with no new money. It continues to grow in service volume without any new funding. I did it with virtually no support from anyone in my agency or in this administration, even though it is the embodiment of Gov. Warner’s “One Virginia” slogan.

    I live what I advocate when it comes to state government issues.

  13. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Have they done this at the AG’s office over the past four years? As Attorney General Kilgore had far more latitute than other executive agency headsa and has broad authority to do his own pay plan — did they pay bonuses like this during his tenure? Just a question.

  14. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    The state already has a program in place to provide a one-time bonus to an employee or group of employees who come up with money saving innovations. This idea has some merit. In the implementation the problem will be 1) what is the incentive to save a buck and get back a quarter when you can have what the buck buys? and 2) what is the incentive to save a buck and get back a quarter when you have to share the quarter with that bum at the next desk who works 10 to 3 with a three hour lunch? (Surely not Will Vehrs, but they are out there and it only takes one to damage morale).

    I can’t answer the question from Anonymous 3:28 about current practice but when I managed the AG’s office we implemented a more traditional bonus plan for good case work, innovative ideas and other efforts above and beyond the call of duty. Lots of people got one at some point over several years, but not everybody and I would have a problem with a plan to rewarded EVERYBODY without some management discretion. But these campaign ideas are always broad outlines.

    The Attorney General’s office has another unusual personnel characteristic that I recommend for the entire state government (duck folks, because the return fire will be coming in hot and heavy): Employment At Will.

  15. Married Man Avatar
    Married Man

    Despite the idea to combat it… I think we will all agree that there is too much waste in State Government.

    Kilgore’s plan is a reasonable idea to get everyone involved in spotting waste. At least he is more concerned about how taxpayer dollars are being spent (remember the great proposal for a watchdog agency). His opponents, both Potts & Kaine, appear to be fascinated with the idea of solving any budget problem with more taxes…”budget reform” as they call it. Let’s be honest….

  16. Bob Griendling Avatar
    Bob Griendling

    Will, I think the idea of giving state employees bonus could be, as already pointed out, an invitation to steal.

    Better to get Jerry to at least be consistent.

  17. victoria Avatar

    Looks like this idea has already been tried since at least 2003…. Budget amendment language which apparently died in appropriations committee…

    Item 4-1.06 #1h
    Page 579, after line 13, insert:
    “6) Agencies in the Executive Department with local or regional offices whereby (i) the local or regional office annual expenditures are less than the annual budget for that local or regional office and (ii) the unexpended annual appropriation was the result of cost savings actions implemented by the local or regional office as certified by the Auditor of Public Accounts. The local or regional office shall retain 25 percent of the unexpended annual appropriation attributable to the cost savings measures for use as a bonus to be divided equally among its employees. The remaining 75 percent of the unexpended annual appropriation shall revert to the general fund.”

  18. Matter of fact, 1:21 anon, the buzzwords actually came from my state Senate campaign, which I advocated performance based-budgeting with monetary incentives for the departments and their employees.

    Individual merit increases are good policy, but the department must perform overall better. Initiating government waste prevention measures and instituting ‘leaner’ government is progressive policy. The ‘idea’ is to have state government more inline with private business expectations.

    It’s about time.

    ~ the blue dog

  19. subpatre Avatar

    …it took a group of 10 bloggers 5 minutes to discover this point…

    Sounds like third-graders crying “but they might hide the ice-cream in their desk overnight”. No wonder, these critics can’t even count to ten right. Shame on me for my West Virginia jokes, when we grow a full crop of ‘the challenged’ right here.

    Incentive for performance is a long-standing, proven method of increasing workforce efficiency. It’s not a panacea in itself, but works with other management improvements.

    Experience shows that if Kilgore’s plan is implemented, many employees will just work harder at first, and fail. Then as a few successes appear, the concept of working smarter –and often simpler– will spread. The key to success is allowing proposed improvements to be tried; a degree of lower level autonomy.

    There’s a lot of bozos out there who think big savings only come from big ideas, reality shows they’re mostly the accumulation of many small savings, efficiencies, and simplifications. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something. There’s a lot wrong with suggesting the state apply bad ideas, and plenty wrong in opposing good ideas.

  20. GOPHokie Avatar

    I think this is a good long-term way to curb waste. While at the beginning it may results in the situations where people try to cut corners in order to get bonuses, but I think long-term it will result in better productivity among the agencies and also help save money for our taxpayers.

  21. criticallythinking Avatar
    criticallythinking

    If this is an “invitation to steal”, what makes you think that the agencies aren’t already “stealing”? If I were to write separately that we needed to cut every budget by 10% because they were wasting that much, the same people would no doubt argue that the selfless, tireless government worker was already making a herculean effort to wisely use every penny, and my proposal was an insult to their character.

    So, which is it. Are the workers in Virginia altruistic bastions of morality who would never dream of abusing the system to put money in their pockets, or are they the type that would do their work at half speed because it would “prove” they needed more money and more people — therefore guaranteeing them employment and overtime?

    And to Paul at 1:50pm, suppose we were to accept your charge that Allen appointed housewives (which you seem to think in itself makes them incompetent, I wonder if there are any housewives who would disagree with your assessment?)

    What proof do you have that Kilgore expects to do the same? Or is your “Allen/Kilgore way” simply a baseless charge for the fun of it?

    Victoria pointed out that the legislature has already considered this (not “already been tried” in the common use of the term). That proposal has an auditor involved to ensure I presume that the agency didn’t simply not do their job. That would be a simple thing to do, and not something I would think should be required as part of a broad policy statement.

    And lastly — Suppose Kilgore, in making this proposal, had actually included his mechanism for making sure employees didn’t take this as a “license to steal”. I bet those who object now to the proposal would be first in line to castigate him for assuming the worst of state employees.

    Charles R.

  22. Poli Amateur Avatar
    Poli Amateur

    Well intended idea, but I need to see more details. What worries me is that just as agencies shift expenses to the next year to balance their budget for the fiscal year, expenses get shifted to the following year to create an artificial bonus. Of course you can say “If it happens once, the budget will be cut the following cycle.” As far as I am concerned, if the shifting of expenses to create bonuses happens one time, it’s happened one time too many. An easy fix for this would be to calculate the bonus over a multi-year period.

    Also, how will the bonus be allocated? Is the cost of administering the bonus deducted out of the bonus itself? I am certain a lot of these questions will be addressed with time.

    Regardless, it shows that Kilgore is willing to use innovative approaches to reduce the spiraling cost of our state government, a cost that Republicans share the blame for as much (if not more) than the Democrats, despite all of the great rhetoric to the contrary. Kudos to Kilgore for advocating something along these lines and stepping up to the plate on finding ways to control government growth…..Now, if we could just get Republicans in DC to grasp this concept.

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