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InsiderOnline Blog: November 2010

They’ve Changed the Menus!

Well, you were getting tired of meatloaf anyway.

It’s not just the U.S. Congress that looks different today. On Tuesday, voters in all 50 states cast ballots for state legislators, too. And in all of those states there’s a free market think tank ready with reform ideas. Here’s a sampler of what they’re talking about:

In Michigan, the Mackinac Center says it’s not just higher taxes that make Michigan a poor business climate compared to neighboring states like Indiana, but excessive regulations, too. For example, Michigan does its own wetlands permitting, and its standards are more rigorous than those of the federal wetlands program. Returning program control to the Army Corps of Engineers would not only be cheaper for the state, but would also make the state more attractive to businesses.

Also, notes the Center, the culture of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment is not oriented toward prompt issuance of environmental permits. Removing that function to a separate agency that would serve as a one-stop shop for all business permits would reduce the amount of time it takes to start a new business in Michigan. For more regulatory reform ideas from the Mackinac Center see: “Environmental Regulation in Michigan: A Blueprint for Reform,” by Russ Harding.

In Massachusetts, the Pioneer Institute wants to help legislators “Hit the Ground Running” in the next legislative session and has offered a wide-ranging set of proposals that include paring the state’s workforce back to its 2004 level, eliminating legal obstacles to outsourcing and privatization, reducing costly state mandates on local governments, regaining control of education standards in the state’s schools, and making the state’s government more transparent to citizens.

In California, the state government is nearly twice as large (22.3 percent of gross state product) as what research shows is the growth-maximizing level (11.4 percent). The Pacific Research Institute’s “No Bang for the Taxpayer’s Buck: Why California Must Reform Spending and Trim Government,” provides a thorough literature review of why and how to reduce state spending. Among the budget-cutting ideas presented are public-private partnerships in managing prisons, biennial budgeting, and switching state pensions from a defined-benefit to a defined-contribution system. See also: “Lessons from California’s Laboratory,” by William Voegeli, published by the Claremont Institute.

In Oregon, the Cascade Policy Institute says “Reality Based Budgeting” can help trim the size of state government, reduce its projected biennial budget deficit of $2 billion, and kick start Oregon’s economy. Among the priorities identified by Cascade are bringing public employee pay into line with private-sector pay (with could save $298 million per biennium), privatizing liquor distribution and sales, eliminating tax subsidies for businesses to invest in renewable energy, and leasing or selling state forests (which would quadruple the return on those assets for the state’s schools). For more ideas from Cascade, see “Facing Reality: Ideas to Reset Oregon’s Budget and Recharge Its Economy.”

More state-level reform ideas can be found in The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues 2011-2012,” and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Refocus Wisconsin Web site.

Posted on 11/05/10 12:01 PM by Alex Adrianson

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