The Good, Bad and Ugly of the MAP Commission
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report



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OCT. 5, 2003 - - In the just-released 198-page report on state government management, accountability and performance, there's a hodge-podge of 213 recommendations for change - - many good, some bad and a few ugly.

In general, the 14 commissioners on the panel appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford do a pretty good job of recommending ways for the state to decrease duplication, boost efficiencies and improve accountability for taxpayers. They claim if all of the recommendations are implemented by executive order or by legislative approval, the state could save $2.2 billion over five years.

But in a state where power is in the General Assembly, it's highly unlikely the state will achieve those whopping savings. Remember, Gov. Sanford's accountability report is the 15th report over the last 80 years that has called for less fractured, less duplicative government.

One of the most significant aspects of the report is its emphasis on creating government clusters of service for functions that occur throughout government. Why, commissioners wonder, should each agency have separate groups to deal with planning, budgeting, human resources, information technology, administrative functions and the like? It would be smarter, they say, for common areas of government, such as Mental Health, Health and Human Services, Health and Environmental Control, Social Services and more, to be clustered administratively under a single health and human services agency. Each department would remain separate; each, however, would use common services from the central agency.

Other good ideas in the report include recommendations to privatize the state's school bus fleet, centralize vehicle maintenance functions, better managing the state's vehicles, use technology to deliver more and better services to taxpayers, and establish a central building authority to manage the state's property. It's also a good idea to try to figure out a way for the 74 different accounting systems used by various agencies to be able to be integrated to reduce redundancy.

But there are other parts of the report that are unsettling.

The most notable was an exception involving state employees. MAP Commission Chairman Ken Wingate went out of his way Tuesday when he unveiled the report to praise the state's 60,000+ hard-working employees.

But with $2.2 billion of cost-cutting and savings recommendations, Wingate was mum on how many state employees would lose their jobs if the MAP Commission's recommendations were implemented. He simply noted that 31 percent of the state-paid work force was eligible for retirement within five years and the problem would "take care of itself." What does that mean? There doesn't appear to have been any policy discussion about the ramifications of potentially 20,000 fewer state employees.

The commission also recommended making two statewide offices - - the superintendent of education and adjutant general - - become appointed offices. It also recommended the secretary of state's functions to be consolidated into the Department of Revenue. While the Legislature is considering some restructuring of constitutional offices, it seems like a bad idea to reduce freedoms and cut accountability by taking away people's votes.

Finally, the report includes some things state lawmakers might find plain ugly. Viewed broadly, the report suggests a huge power-grab by the governor's office. All of the consolidation and shifting around of agencies would have the impact of making South Carolina's governor much more powerful and, conversely, the General Assembly weaker. Making agencies accountable to the governor might seem like good business on paper, but it doesn't take politics into account. As some lawmakers already have suggested, the General Assembly isn't likely to reduce its influence.

There's also a concern the shifting around of agency responsibilities is nothing more than moving shells in a shell game - - that all of the consolidations may not have much of a real impact on the way people use government and are, instead, bureaucratic maneuverings designed to make it look like change is happening when it really isn't.

Regardless, the MAP Commission report has a lot of good ideas. We'll see where the rubber hits the road in January when the Legislature takes a whack at the commission's recommendations.

Night fever?

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:


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