Eric Johnson Announces Budget Reform Plan; Favors Zero Based Budgeting

Eric Johnson has today issued a press release announcing his plans to reform the state’s (apparently broken) budget process, and pledges to implement Zero Based Budgeting. The press release is as follows:

Macon, GA—Former Senator Eric Johnson, Republican candidate for Governor, today announced his plans to reform the state budget process. As Governor, Johnson will instruct agency heads to implement zero based budgeting and partner with the private sector to ensure that state government focuses on the most essential core functions.

“As Governor, I will direct all state agency heads to implement zero based budgeting so that I, the legislature, and Georgia taxpayers will know exactly what services government is providing and what it costs to provide these services,” said Johnson. “Like the private sector, government should be in a position to make informed decisions based on the total actual costs of different programs, not just changes in expenditures.”

In the Senate, Johnson voted repeatedly to implement zero based budgeting—most recently in 2009.

Additionally, Johnson will create and ask respected business leaders to join him and other public sector representatives on the “Back to Basics Commission”, which will be tasked with setting priorities for the state budget. The Commission will be able to use the information provided by the use of zero based budgeting when reviewing the budget.

“Especially in these difficult economic times and given the tough choices state government is facing, many of us are asking what the core functions of government are,” said Johnson. “With input from private sector experts, public sector representatives, and our citizen consumers, we will ask the tough questions and look for programs that might be unnecessary and opportunities to trim the state budget while protecting vital government services.”

An architect and a respected conservative leader, Eric Johnson served as President Pro Tempore of the Georgia State Senate. In that role, he passed legislation that cut taxes and spending, empowered small businesses, and protected doctors and businesses from frivolous lawsuits. He and his wife Kathryn have two grown children and live in Savannah. For more information please visit www.JohnsonForGeorgians.com.

49 comments

  1. ByteMe says:

    A commission? Wasn’t Handel criticized for proposing commissions to solve the big problems instead of coming to the table with canned solutions? (Let’s not even get started on whether the canned solution would work.)

    Aren’t we supposed to be hiring him to lead and not appoint a commission to solve the problem for him? Wasn’t he a leading part of the legislature that got us to this point?

  2. Ryan says:

    In regard to the comment Byteme made about the governor being hired to lead and not appoint a commission, I would like to point out, a pivitol quality of a leader is his/her acknowledging that he/she does not have all the solutions, nor that they have thought of every possible action. The role of a leader is to dissiminate which idea to use. Eric’s approach, while it seems to be somewhat a canned one, is sensible in light of the current budgeting shortfalls.

    • ByteMe says:

      While I don’t normally disagree with what you say, we’re talking about a candidate who has been running for a while, would likely have a lot of business and political insiders to talk with (i.e., raise money from), was in the legislature for years… and yet he doesn’t have even a glimmer of a workable long-term solution to the problem? What has he been doing with his time?

      If he was in the middle of it and this came out of the blue, then a commission would make sense. However, as a candidate, he needs to tell us what he would actually do. And appointing a commission seems like a way to just CYA the situation.

  3. BuckheadConservative says:

    At UGA, I had a class with a professor who participated in a summit of academic economist at Harvard to discuss what should be done with the budget surplus under GWB. Their focus was on what would give the most “bang for the buck” in terms of economic growth. Options included 1.) refund to taxpayers 2.) infrastructure improvements 3.) Use it to shore up entitlement programs that are troubled (i.e. Al Gore’s lock-box) 4.) Giving it to low income Americans via increased spending on social programs or transfer payments, and a few others I forget. I remember he said there were pretty evenly divided between tax cuts and infrastructure improvements.

    Should we be doing this all the time in government? Deciding which government programs yield the biggest returns in terms of economic growth and giving those priority. Not just with budget surpluses, but with budgets in general? Too many times the budget process breaks down into “who needs (wants) what” instead of “what works?”

    I think Sen. Johnson is on the right track with this.

  4. Mozart says:

    I think Johnson’s idea of the “zero-based budgeting” solution is the only right step to take before someone like Handel just wades-in to government and starts slashing employees without actually knowing which employee does what task and whether or not that task contributes to the success of the agency/department or not.

    Handel fired a bunch of people…but, unless those people were proven to be deadweight, what she likely caused was less people doing more work and taking longer to accomplish their given tasks.

    Not a good way to run a business, and certainly not a good way to run a government which is supposed to serve and protect the public.

    • macho says:

      Good point, Johnson’s plan makes sure we have more government workers on the payroll, and then, more people paying payroll taxes.

      • Mozart says:

        Sorry, macho, but you’re wrong. It’s like Shirley Franklin furloughing police and fire without actually knowing she could have furloughed her entire finance department and nothing detrimental would have happened since they have been making-up numbers for years.

    • Gary Cooper says:

      I have to disagree with your opinion. Cutting staff does not always result in less people doing more work and taking longer to accomplish that work. What any good manager or leader who operates a budget should be able to look at everything and pin point exact areas where you can combine services or resources and then make cuts. There are certainly areas of state (and local) government where you can combine services or resources and still be efficient.

      What needs to be done here first is prioritize the most essential services that are guaranteed in the state and U.S. Constitution and ensure these are funded. Other non-essential services and programs need to be looked at by those in charge and in that process decisions need to be made. If a service or responsibility can be combined without affecting efficiency, then a cut can be made and money saved.

      I hate that anyone has to lose their job – public or private employees. However, government should never be a jobs program and should only provide the most essential services. Others should always be up for review and cut backs made when necessary.

      • Mozart says:

        Gary,

        If the demand for government services stays the same in a recession (as it did prior to the recession), and you reduce the number of employees assigned to process and research the “needs” (just a generic term to apply to the services offered by government entities), then unless you have previously analyzed the operation, and you know exactly how duties are performed and why they are performed, then if you just go in and slice-out personnel, it may help your bottom line in appearances, but it may back-up the delivery of services because you’ve cut out people who were crucial to the delivery of the service.

        By the way, how do you feel about the fact that several crime labs of the GBI have had to close and some resources consolidated? Do you think that in a recession that there is a sudden downturn in the need for scientific blood analysis and other DNA crime lab demands? Do you think crime goes down in a recession?

        I mean, you know, we certainly don’t want to have to employ too many people to help DA’s investigate murders and such, do we? I mean, hey, if someone is arrested, the fact that the crime lab’s work could either convict them OR free them from jail should not be any of our concern, should it?

        By golly, the more I write this response to you, Gary, the more I am becoming in alignment with your way of thinking. Let’s also just cut the number of assistant DAs and assistant solicitors too.

        Let’s cut down the number of Georgia State Patrol officers. After all, people should be allowed to recklessly drive all they want to all over our public roads and interstates, right? We just don’t need all these needless “jobs” programs, do we?

      • Mozart says:

        Oh…and let me just make a slight addendum to those previous comments, Gary: You stated the following: “What any good manager or leader who operates a budget should be able to look at everything and pin point exact areas where you can combine services or resources and then make cuts.”

        This is GOVERNMENT, Gary. Your concept of a “good manager” in GOVERNMENT is very, very different from the concept of a “good manager” in the private sector.

        Government managers are not trained in looking for ways to save money.

        The zero-budgeting idea of Johnson’s (and first proposed, I think, by David Shafer) is the exact approach because it requires people to start from zero and justify their department’s expenses.

        Rather than do it the way it used to be done like “Say, what did we spend last year for X? $50,000? Okay, let’s budget $55,000 this year”, zero-based budgeting requires someone asking the question “Why do you do what you do?” rather than assuming every task someone performs actually contributes to the final delivery of the service.

        • ready2rumble says:

          One of the first things Handel did as SoS was implement zero based budgeting. That was the basis for the cuts that she made in the agency.

          • Mozart says:

            Now, how would a division director, who has worked with standard government accounting and budgeting methods for many years, be able to just turn around and produce a zero-based budget without any training at all?

            Because, a zero-based budget implies that the costs are driven by the activity required. And figuring out the costs and value of an activity is not a simple task to accomplish.

            Are you saying that Handel developed activity-based costing knowledge for every department in the span of 3 years?

            If so, then those techniques should be patented and sold on the open market because the number of personnel working for the vast Secretary of State’s office would usually demand a department-by-department study involving many analysts, and many months to accomplish to get a good feeling for what each activity demands in terms of costs and resources.

            • Republican Lady says:

              It was her jobs and experience over the last twenty years that gave her the ability to implement zero-based budgeting.

              • Mozart says:

                Ah, so working for Marilyn Quayle taught her zero-based budgeting techniques….as did the North Fulton Chamber…as did the Fulton County Commission.

                Okee-dokee.

        • NorthGAGOP says:

          How does supporting a bill, maybe voting for it once make you a zero based budgeting expert? Or even give you management experience?

    • HowardRoark says:

      “…taking longer to accomplish their given tasks.”

      We’re talking about a woman who quit the 4 year term she was elected to. She’s not exactly serious about getting things done.

      • Republican Lady says:

        If she had stayed, would you have been satisfied with the July and November election results or would you be one of the ones saying she used her position to give herself a higher margin to guarantee she wins?

        • HowardRoark says:

          No, I wouldn’t be saying that. I’m not a tin-hat.

          If every SoS has to resign so they don’t count their own votes, someone should send that memo to Brian Kemp. He’ll be sorely disappointed.

          • NorthGAGOP says:

            Johnson resigned in the middle of his term. Deal can’t make up his mind if he’s going to resign or not.

              • Mozart says:

                Rome, seriously, I think a 16-year commitment to a party is a pretty long commitment. So, unless you have some inside info that he is looking to switch to another party, your comment is irrelevant noise.

  5. old political pro says:

    This is the same jerk who constantly argued as Senate Pres Protemp that what we promise on the campaign trail is not how we govern. he’ll do or say anything to get elected and then spend money like a drunken fool – just like he did when he ran the Senate.

  6. Capt. Jack Sparrow says:

    When he was in a position of authority, did the budget go up or down?

    Did he ever introduce a bill for zero-based budgeting during his 10+ years in the Senate?

    Just askin…

    • ReaganRepublican says:

      He always mentions how he lead the state senate to strip Mark Taylor of his powers making him the de facto lieutenant governor. Under his de facto reign budget spending was not curtailed…. People might believe his crap in the Bayou , but not in Georgia. He is an architect from New Orleans who will not get more than 5% of the vote in Georgia…

  7. benevolus says:

    So is he saying the legislature doesn’t know how much it costs to provide government services? That the budget is secret except for the changes?
    Is he saying that legislators are going to have to go through thousands of lines of budget figures- most of which will not change- and figure out for themselves where the changes are occurring?

  8. StephenLocustGrove says:

    I have an idea. How about we expunge all the items in the budget that are UNCONSTITUTIONAL?? I’m guessing that would be 50% of the budget….

    • Icarus says:

      Please tell us which parts of the state budget that total 50% are unconstitutional.

      Pro-tip, remember that the State has a constitution too. The whole world isn’t the 10th Amendment to the federal constitution, you know.

      Another hint: education and prisons make up about 60-70% of the budget. Do you believe they are unconstitutional items? If not, you’re already down to 30%.

      • Sadly, you are correct.

        While there are places to cut, it’s not as obvious as some might think. As for unconstitutional, If there are any, I’m not aware of them.

        There are; however, some duplicate services that could be eliminated or merged to save money. See the GDOT to begin.

        • Mozart says:

          Is the Department of Human Resources a Georgia constitution item?

          And what about DOAS? A Georgia constitution requirement?

          How about GRTA?

          How about Department of Community Services?

            • Mozart says:

              No, I believe I was asking if it was. This little symbol at the end of a sentence ” ? “ signifies an interrogative statement.

              • benevolus says:

                That’s what Limbauhg usually says when he says something he doesn’t want to take responsibility for. “I’m just asking the question”.

                    • GOPGeorgia says:

                      I’ll stand corrected. Going back, you asked a question about the question before you criticized it. Enjoy these little victories. I don’t concede very often.

                    • benevolus says:

                      I was hoping Moz would take a stand, but alas, they passed on it. It sounded like they were trying to say that, if it isn’t specifically IN the Georgia constitution, then it’s not “constitutional”. But it’s too pedantic of a conversation to pursue anyway.

  9. John Konop says:

    No one wants to talk about it, but we will need user fees that off-set the cost of the service.

    Education:

    Increase lunch price

    Fuel fee for buses

    College tuition increase

    Increase price with meal plan at college

    I am sure many other areas.

    License:

    Cover the cost of materials, labor and building.

    Libraries:

    Internet access fee

    Raise late book fees

    Rent rooms

    I could go on and on. Unless we make tough cuts and charge more for services the math does not work.

    And I agree with zero based budgeting, but lets start having a real conversation about the reality of the situation.

  10. Mozart says:

    Someone needs to look at the budget of the Ga Technology Authority to see how wi-fi networks they installed that allow lots of members of the public to gain Internet access for free.

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