Angi Stalnaker: Break government logjam, so great ideas get through

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The Alabama Constitution is the longest of its kind in the world. No other state and no other nation has a governing document that comes close to ours in its sheer volume.

Yet, in all of its 117,000 words, it only specifies one absolute duty of the Legislature and that’s to pass a balanced budget. This year, that budget is in dire straits and the fact that there is a severe shortage of revenue is a fact that nearly all elected officials can agree on.

The political divide appears when the discussion of solutions to the state’s fiscal woes enters the conversation. Some promote taxes and some advocate for more cuts to General Fund agencies. Some argue more can be cut and others insist that further cuts would be disastrous and would prohibit our state from adequately providing basic services. The correct answer is unclear but one thing is for sure, if you want the truth, go to the source and nobody has done that.

More than 25,000 hardworking Alabamians are employed by the state of Alabama. They are each witnesses to the everyday processes of state government. Most of them see things every day that are wasteful or inefficient. Many of them have ideas on ways that things could be changed to make government operate more efficiently and to save precious taxpayer dollars.

The problem is that the layers of government are so plentiful that it is difficult for many state employees to express their ideas to a decision maker and then even more difficult to get real change enacted. Government operates on inertia and the idea of doing something a certain way because that is the way it has always been done is standard operating procedure at most levels. These desperate budget times mandate a change in that mindset and that will require elected officials and decision makers to go to the source for revenue savings.

State employees haven’t had a raise since before Auburn won a National Championship. The last time they saw a real salary increase, Barack Obama was still a U.S. senator. Yet, in all that time, nobody has gone to this group of eyewitnesses to everyday government and asked them how to operate more efficiently and effectively. It’s time to ask state employees for their ideas to cut costs and operate more efficiently and reward them for it.

Launch a website and ask current state employees to submit their ideas and, if an idea is instituted, give that employee a one-time bonus equal to 5 percent of the savings accrued by their idea in the first year. Ideas will come in. Some will be feasible and some won’t be. The submitted ideas may only save a few million dollars or there could be tens of millions of taxpayer dollars saved. We will never know until we go to the source.

Angi Horn Stalnaker is founder of Virtus Solutions, a government relations and communications firm.

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