More On The Veto Of The Sunset Bill

As we mentioned last week Governor Deal vetoed HB456, the Sunset Bill. Many of us were disappointed because we think this is a good bill that will help make Georgia’s government more efficient and effective for Georgia taxpayers.

This morning I spoke with Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) who Chairs the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight committee. He worked hard to get this bill passed with bi-partisan support and was on the Conference Committee that worked out this final details that insured it’s passage.

Like Chuck, I support Governor Deal and think he’s doing a great job as Governor, but we disagree with the Governor on this issue. Friends do that sometimes. I post Chuck’s comments on HB456 with his permission and in the spirit of continuing the debate. I hope we can come back next year and implement this with Governor Deal’s support.

Here is what Rep. Martin sent me.

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First, let me say I supported candidate Nathan Deal and I support Governor Nathan Deal. I believe the Governor is making many of the right moves for our state during these economic times and look forward to continuing to work with he and his office.

That said, the veto of HB 456, “The Georgia Government Accountability Act”, a/k/a, “The Sunset Bill”, was in my opinion a mistake.

HB 456 could have led to the elimination of unneeded and underserving state agencies and departments. Similar measures have worked well in other states such as Texas. HB456 passed the Georgia House with only 18 votes against. HB 456 had true bi-partisan
support including the leadership in both parties. In the Senate HB 456 passed with only 8 votes against.

The veto was based, according to a statement by the governor’s office, on the cost of the implementation. I believe vetoing the bill on this basis was misguided, here is why:

Approximate State Revenues for Fiscal Year 2012: $18,500,000,000.00

Staff’s estimated cost of elimination of HB 456: $7,000,000.00*

* This uses staff’s high in the estimate figure; I personally do not believe the additional annual cost would be near that amount.

So, cost of implementation would use .0378% (.000378) of state revenues with the potential of saving taxpayers’ money.

Let’s examine that cost when presented in terms of a Georgia family.

Let’s say a family makes $40,000 per year and they spent .0378% of their income to make sure they are getting a good value for their spending. In that case, the Georgia family would spend $15.14 per year, $.29 per week, $.04 per day to get a financial
checkup.

Now ask yourself, if you make $40,000 per year would you spent $.04 per day, four cents per day, to insure you were getting a value for the money you spent – I think most Georgia families would say yes, I would and I will.

In fact, I expect the Georgia General Assembly will continue to keep this front and center in 2013 and until it becomes law in Georgia.

Representative Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta
Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Chairman

9 comments

  1. bgsmallz says:

    The Sally Struthers argument. Clever.

    I don’t really have a dog in this fight…but what’s interesting to me is that a fiscal conservative would make this kind of argument. Maybe I’m being too cynical, but…

    Number 1- (aside) median household income in Georgia is ~$50,000. So if you are going to make the ‘pull a number out of a hat’ comparison, using the median income would be more honest. Which gives you $18.65 a year and .05 a day.

    Number 2- What that kind of comparison completely ignores is comparative opportunity costs and risk.

    First, we aren’t told how much the family would save by spending $15.14 (or $18.65 a year) or whether that is a statistical certainty…what is the range of savings? What is the probability of those savings?

    Second, and probably most importantly, the opportunity costs of spending $14 or $15 a year aren’t really that much. You certainly aren’t going to be able to get a large return on your investment..maybe a dinner out for a family of four at Ci Ci’s. If you can even get a 1% savings (net of $385) for spending $14 or $15 it certainly makes sense even if there is a high risk of losing all of that $14 or $15.

    However, it becomes very, very, very relevant when you are talking about $7 Million or even $5 Million instead of $14 or $15. If we are going to just shrug off $7 Million because it is comparable to $15 if Georgia’s budget was the same as the average family, then why be a fiscal conservative in the first place? What’s $15 Million here or $20 Million there when it is only equivalent to $30 a year to the average Georgia family? The point is this…you can get a lot for $7M, even in 2012. That’s $7M from the general fund that could be going to an investment in education, transportation, etc. every year. You better have numbers that show that the state of Georgia is going to save upwards of $7M every single year if you are going to put that type of money on the line for possible savings. In fact, you should be almost showing more than $7M in savings each year. What’s the point of spending $7M to save $7M? (I’ve heard that argument before around here, you know…and that goes to a completely different animal where at least you’ll have a building and operating revenues going to the GWCC etc. after you spend the money on the Dome)

    Texas has had sunset legislation since 1977. “Similar measures have worked well in other states such as Texas.”…that’s the quote from Rep. Martin. That’s perfect….then there should be no problem with presenting real data about actual savings at the state level of millions of dollars rather than presenting false comparisons that over simplify the issue. Give me the real data…not the Sally Struthers approach.

    That’s what so interesting about this one…it is the complete opposite of the Dome. At least with the Dome you have actual revenues produced, you have comparisons of the GWCC’s revenues/losses with a NFL team and without, you have real salary data, etc. etc. etc. Yet that’s being ignored because it’s an easy target to say ‘spend money here, not there.’ Here you have someone arguing that we should just say ‘.0378%’ isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things, so trust me….and no one is even batting an eye. All I’m asking is that you prove the savings is worth the cost. Go get the data from Texas and show us the savings over the past 35 years. It should be easy pickings. (right?)

    And I say this acknowledging my complete ignorance….9serioulsy, I truly have no clue. I’m just going off of this post). The data could be there and I would more than gladly shut up. I’m certainly stirring the pot on this one. But I think it is worth asking especially as someone who hasn’t heard much about the actual benefits other than the standard ‘government is bad unless you put a limit on it’.

  2. xdog says:

    That’s a very good response, bgsmallz. You covered what bothered me about Chuck Martin’s defense of his pet in much better fashion than I could have managed.

  3. Chuck Martin says:

    I appreciate bgsmallz thoughtful response and would offer a couple of pieces of information in response.

    To point Number 1, I offered the” per year, per month, per day” numbers to make a relative point since the affordability issue was raised by the governor’s office. I suggest each family apply the ratio to fit their particular income.

    To point Number 2, you question the comparison of risks to cost; good question. Answer this for me: Do you believe if your family expenses were reviewed objectively for a fee of $18.65/per year, assuming an income of $50,000, you would find saving in excess of that amount/:
    Further, as for “very, very, very relevant” cost of $7 million; agreed $7 million is real money. By the way I don’t think it would cost that much, and never heard that estimate during the 2 years the legislation was being discussed in the House and Senate and the Texas experience is not that costly.

    Your question for actual numbers from Texas is a good one, their website is: http://www.sunset.state.tx.us/ , and according to it, the commission spent $32.8 million over the 29 year period from 1982 to 2011; during that time Texans saved $945.5 million, a return of about 29 to 1.

    Hope this helps.

    • bgsmallz says:

      Doug-

      Thanks for the response. It takes a certain bit of courage to respond to anonymous posters and it is much appreciated. Thanks to you and Buzz for your service.

      I’ll dig into the numbers from Texas. Quite impressive. If the stat holds water, clearly you have a strong justification for the bill. To me…that makes a whole lot more sense than the relative spending argument. I think the idea of sunseting seems like common sense, but I think that stupid freakonomics book always makes me say ‘prove it’.

      • Chuck Martin says:

        Hey, glad to respond, and appreciate you bringing up the return on invest question. Certainly, we believe saving can, and will, be found to far exceed the money spent, and in the process the legislature, working with the governor’s office, and the state agencies can annually seek to improve service levels — just seems like a win, win, win. As Buzz said in the introduction of the topic, this needs a continuing conversation to find a path to implementation.

        • bgsmallz says:

          And apologies….should have said ‘Chuck’ not ‘doug’…that’s what I get for responding from my phone.

  4. debbie0040 says:

    Gov. Deal had pledge to support the bill as long as his office had control of the process -which would have severely weakend the bill.

    I appreciate Rep. Brockway and Rep. Martin for speaking publicly about their disagreement with Gov. Deal on this one issue…

    If Gov. Deal was concerned about cost then he should have not accepted a budget that allocated money to float a 15 million dollar bond to purchase land to build a new stadium for the Falcons. Money was allocated for ObamaCare in the budget. We have people that will comb through the budget for other items and will make it public..

  5. debbie0040 says:

    http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2012/01/14/deal-supports-buyout-of-homes-outside-ga-air-base/
    I received the following from a friend that included the link above. The friend was right on target. How much other items will we find when we dig deeper into the budget? We intend to continue to spot light such items and remind activists of Gov. Deal’s veto of a bill that would save the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. In fact roughly $27.00 return on each dollar spent..

    “Gov. Deal wants to spend $7 million in state tax dollars to bail-out private homeowners in Larry O’Neal’s district, but doesn’t want to use $7 million to help save state tax dollars?”

    • bgsmallz says:

      Debbie-

      I’m not sure what you are adding to the discussion other than innuendo and ideological pitch points.

      I know less about the $7M in Bibb/Houston counties than I do about the sunset money, but I can promise you that if there are houses literally in the crash zone of the air force base that need to be purchased because of (a) the high likelihood of being crashed upon and (b) the high likelihood of needing a Dept of Defense approved crash zone in order to keep the air force base open, then I think it is safe to say that the state does have a legitimate interest in coming up with $7 Million to go along with the $13 Million being provided by local Bibb and Houston county governments in order to purchase those private homes and keep the air force base open and employing Georgians.

      Your Tea Party contributions to economic discussions remind me of a child learning to play the electric guitar. There is tons of noise coming out of the amplifier, but no music and that only seems to persuade you to turn up the volume even higher.

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