Nevada Taxpayers Association releases 62 spending reforms for Nevada

Victor Joecks

A lot of good ideas, so dive right in.

I’ll only highlight one area of recommendations that is extremely important – reforming Nevada’s budgeting process.

The current budget process has been in place since 1993. Known as a cost-to-continue budget, it tends to presume that the spending levels of the prior biennium are still viable. This base budget is then increased by “roll-ups,” which include increased caseloads, enrollments, utility costs, grounds upkeep costs, building maintenance costs, and shared administrative costs (Personnel Department costs, IT costs, etc.).

During periods of economic growth this tends to allow a budget that is on automatic pilot for increased spending. The following recommendations regarding the budget are focused on providing solutions that more efficiently identify expenditures, and also provide additional accountability and transparency to Nevadans about where and how their tax dollars are being spent.

1. Prioritize the expenditure of funds.
Reason: Frequently when the need arises for fiscal “belt-tightening,” it is often a vocal minority who argues for nonessential program enhancements. Priorities should be established for programs and services that are essential to the well-being of the general public or carry penalties (mandated programs and services) for not being in compliance. Prioritization of agency budgets would also identify what programs or services should be maintained during an economic downturn vs. those that should be considered for cuts.
Action Required: Implementation by Governor and Legislature. (Statute should be changed, otherwise the Governor’s office needs to prepare two budgets.)
Note: Also see recommendation #43 of the SAGE Commission Report. The Commission looked at the Arkansas priorities budget law which has been in place since 1945 and determined this would be a viable template for future Nevada budgets.

2. Program-based or Performance-based budgets should be utilized when applicable.
Reason: Program Based – Where multiple agencies and departments provide similar programs, those agency/department budgets should be program-based. This would allow for better program coordination and provide program continuity. A lead agency should be established and based on funding could award grants to other governmental units and nonprofit organizations that meet program requirements. This would streamline administrative procedures and minimize duplicative administrative costs. (For example, substance abuse programs separately funded with no coordinated link include programs administered by the Department of Prisons, the Office of Parole and Probation, the Department of Education, Clark and Washoe county drug courts, DARE, etc.) When analyzing the delivery of a program or service, nonprofit agencies that work in a particular field should receive consideration as a potential service or program provider.
Performance Based – Many agencies and departments are responsible for delivering a specific service(s). These departmental budgets should be based on what is necessary to efficiently perform/deliver the service(s) based on specific goals and required outcomes.
Action Required: See recommendation 1 “Action Required.”

3. Objectives should be established for each program or service to be provided.
Specific objectives to be achieved can be measured to facilitate an evaluation of the effectiveness of the program or service to allow corrective action to be taken if necessary, or provide for the enhancement or elimination of the program of service.
Action Required: Implementation by Governor

4. The outcome-based performance indicators that have been developed for each agency/department should be based on the objectives established and also posted on the State’s website.
Reason: This would provide the measurement standards for the objectives set for programs or services and allow greater transparency and accountability by taxpayers.
Action Required: Implementation by Governor or Legislature.

These reforms are similar to the budget reforms Geoffrey Lawrence has written about for NPRI and that the SAGE Commission has recommended (number 43).

They’re also something Nevada’s families and businesses do instinctively. Nevada’s government should do the same.

(h/t Doug Busselman)