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06-02-2003

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 8 months ago

June 2, 2003

GOVERNOR ROMNEY TESTIMONY ON AN ACT TO REFORM, RESTRUCTURE, AND REVITALIZE GOVERNMENT

 

Madam Chairwoman, Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Joint Committee on State Administration:

 

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you this morning. I thank you both for your time and for your consideration of this important matter, as well as the courtesies you have shown us as we have worked with you to bring forward our plan to reform, restructure, and revitalize government.

 

I want to spend a little time talking about government sprawl. It’s the tendency of government over time to add layer upon layer of bureaucracy. Left unchecked, this growth complicates the span of control and coordination.

 

It serves to isolate agencies and saddle them with rigid, outdated bureaucracies. Here in Massachusetts, government sprawl has left us with a 1950’s bureaucracy fumbling the challenges of the 21st century. We can do better.

 

Everyone in this hearing room recognizes our state is at a crossroads. This is no ordinary time.

 

The question is not whether we will solve our budget problems — we will — but how we’re going to do it. The choices we make in the next few weeks are going to significantly impact the ability of state government to carry through on its fundamental missions for years to come.

 

At the end of the day, I see only two alternatives.

 

One, we just cut. If basic services are seriously damaged, so be it.

 

Two, we reform. Yes, we reduce spending in some areas. That’s unavoidable. But we do so as part of a process of broad-based restructuring. We preserve core services now, and position ourselves to better realize the promise of state government in the long term.

 

The initiatives you’re considering under Article 87 right now will save this state literally hundreds of millions of dollars over time. Even more importantly, they will allow us to manage our way through the spending reductions that we have to make in order to bring our budget into balance.

 

The current structure of our state government is half a century old. Fifty years. Fifty years ago, there were no personal computers….no Internet….no cell phones. If a company in the private sector kept the same business model for fifty years, it’d be bankrupt.

 

Even worse, there is no rational order to the structure of state government. It did not come into existence as the result of any extraordinary foresight or well thought out plan. It just grew, and grew, and grew.

 

We’ve already made a lot of progress in the last few months — and I thank you for that. Many of our reforms have been adopted as part of the legislative budget process.

 

But we still have a long way to go. It’s time to take the wrench out of reform and get to work. The proposals before you today offer the Commonwealth a new beginning.

 

They eliminate duplication.

 

They streamline departments and agencies.

 

And they improve the delivery of services, even in a time of diminished resources, and create much-needed accountability in the chain of command.

 

They do not change the rights or responsibilities of government under the general laws. But they do seek to change the structure of the executive branch.

 

Taken as a whole, the proposals included under the two Article 87 filings provide a new, simpler, more efficient structure for public sector administration in the Commonwealth.

 

As the Commonwealth’s chief executive, I am requesting the same leeway to operate the executive branch as you expect to operate the legislative branch. There is no such thing as a “perfect” organizational structure. Every state is organized in a different way. But as chief executive, I ask you to give me the tools to do my job in the best way possible.

 

As you know, my administration’s Article 87 filing has been divided into two parts.

 

First, there is a comprehensive proposal that makes changes in the existing structure and creates new executive offices for Education, Economic Affairs, and Commonwealth Development. We also elevate four department heads to full secretary status: Labor, Housing, Economic Development (which is renamed Business and Technology), and Consumer Affairs (which is currently Consumer and Commercial Services).

 

This will create a 13-member cabinet, one that will allow both myself and future governors to integrate the state’s housing, environment, and transportation efforts and more closely tie labor and business regulation to economic development.

 

Let me speak more closely to this issue. The establishment of an Executive Office of Economic Affairs and an Executive Office for Commonwealth Development is absolutely critical to our efforts to bring the different agencies of state government together in a more collaborative manner.

 

One constant complaint among members of previous administrations — both Democratic and Republican — has been the recurrence of conflicts between different agencies pursuing opposing policy agendas. One example: the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Transportation and Construction have often sought to block each other’s projects. The result has been reduced progress both in terms of infrastructure development and environmental protection. At the same time, staff resources and taxpayer dollars are wasted.

 

We cannot afford to tolerate this kind of bureaucratic infighting. By bringing Environment and Transportation together under the auspices of the Office of Commonwealth Development, we won’t.

 

I have also submitted a smaller filing that supplements my education proposal. I recognize that this second filing is particularly controversial. That is why I have not included it in our larger filing. But I still think it deserves to be considered and accepted or rejected on a straight up or down vote.

 

Once again, the fiscal crisis has presented us with a choice. We can keep the existing structure of our university system, slash its budget and cut quality, or we can reorganize the system and improve both its accessibility and quality.

 

Again, I support the second alternative. My proposal saves money by eliminating the office of UMass president and reassigning the office’s responsibilities to chancellors on each of the five campuses. This will save $14 million.

 

Let me also address two questions that have been asked repeatedly.

 

First, why did I file my restructuring plan under Article 87?

 

As you know, the Massachusetts Constitution permits the Governor to bring forward a proposal to reorganize the affairs of the Executive Branch. This provision exists because our predecessors in the State House understood a Governor should be given the tools to manage within legislative mandates.

 

Second, why didn’t I file a separate reorganization proposal for each secretariat?

 

Well, I’m fond of cars and used to tinker with them as a young man, so let me respond to that question with an analogy. You can’t put the engine of a Corvette into the body of a Model-T. If you’re going to change with the times, you need to get a new car.

 

Our vision for how state government can operate more efficiently hinges upon the implementation of our entire reform package, not piecemeal changes to the existing structure.

 

My hope is that, in considering this program, you will be persuaded by its sense of fairness, the people’s demand for a more efficient and accountable government and the right of the executive to bring forward an organization structure that best carries out the executive branch’s mission and responsibilities.

 

I should also note that, as members, you know better than me that there are ways to make amendments to both of these measures despite the fact that they have been submitted in final form. If there are small technical errors or corrections that need to be made — if you don’t like the paint color of the Corvette or you want to change the upholstery — I’m ready to work with you.

 

In return, however, I would ask that you do not use an objection to any one proposal as a pretext for rejecting the entire restructuring plan.

 

Finally, I want to thank the hundreds of men and women who have worked so hard to create a restructuring plan that is truly reflective of the consensus opinion at the grassroots level.

 

Some critics have claimed that these proposals have come from either myself or my team alone. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Credit for this legislation needs to be extended to the countless public officials, private sector leaders, and non-profit workers who have contributed their ideas and relayed their concerns over the past few months.

 

Here on Beacon Hill, administration witnesses have presented testimony and participated in more than 16 hearings exceeding 60 hours before House and Senate committees. Individual cabinet members have solicited input from legislators and conducted meetings around the state with constituencies impacted by proposed changes in their respective departments or agencies.

 

To cite one example, Secretary Preston held regional forums throughout March and April in eight different cities and towns: Somerville, Worcester, Westfield, Canton, Tewksbury, Fall River, West Barnstable, and Boston. Legislators and community leaders were invited to participate at each forum. At the same time, each assistant secretary from Health and Human Services met with professional, trade, consumer, and advocacy groups to elicit their input on relevant aspects of the reorganization.

 

Above all else, the open exchange of ideas over the last few months has served as a reminder that nobody has a monopoly on the right answers.

 

It has also paved the way for many of the reform steps already taken. A number of elements of my restructuring plan have already been adopted in the House and Senate budgets. We’ve made significant progress.

 

If we continue to work together in a constructive manner, we will create a government that truly works for the people and contribute to a new era of prosperity for our families and citizens.

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