Tax Us or Tailor it

by Gayle Plato

The Arizona Budget Debacle

What else has not been discussed about this highly contentious plan?  All players in the government battlefield are grousing about either HOW are we going to pay for all of the programs, or WHICH elected official is going to fall on a sword and eat the increased spending?

What happened to WHY are we spending more every year when the rest of the state is going broke, and private industry is stretching every dollar?

Apollo 13 Style- Square Peg in Round Hole Time

The story and movie about Apollo 13 is a fantastic analogy. We need the smartest people in the room, coming up with the best solutions that are so outside of the normal scope and sequence; otherwise, the state is literally going to fiscally implode. We are outta amps and we gotta get the crew home.

Stimulus and Pick Anyone?

Work with federal stimulus funds and ask that they be re-issued from pet project expenses to other transportation like  alt-fuel buses and state roads. Do not assume we must take the stimulus money handed to us without a state review.  I do not care if it’s already been allocated. The 10th Amendment overrides all Congressional Revenue Packaging.  Look it up.

Get the good Governor and lege to write an appeal to the POTUS Administration and put the appeal on every website with a big press conference.  GO on FOX, CNBC, CNN, every blog, and even the mindless local news.

We need to ask voters  to approve a new lottery game, not a new tax.  With that, we can either rewrite or restructure legislation currently authorizing lottery funds that go to transportation.  All of that money should be re-issued to vital social services. There are 250-500 million dollars of potential needed right now.  Add a  major game to counter the expenses.  Most of that money is currently going to transportation, and that stimulus money AZ is taking should be supplementing transportation this year.

We need a program audit with a five point rubric.

All social services will be required to determine a treatment plan track for all recipients.   Review every agency by letting them know all funds are suspended, with IOUs only until they submit clear reports of expenditures and goals met. From state educational remediation to local counseling stopping criminal recidivism of teens, all programs need exit plans for all clients.  Within the year, if said programs do not meet criteria, meet the quota of graduated clients, the programs are either limited and on notice or cut completely. The audit, if a rubric, will offer simple and straightforward alignment. Clients must move out, make room for new, and help others.

Use all money for ONLY the programming proven to meet criteria. Every single agency goes on probation with 12, 18, and 24 month goals. No exceptions.  Think of it as No Tax Dollar Left Behind.

Audit repetition and eliminate it.

We need one clearing house of state social services and look for doubling up. If the IRS can find under/over expenses, we can screen.  With that, all programs need to meet mission statements and flow chart templates.  MANY agencies are complete mysteries and absolute clusters of mess.  Many agencies have no accountability.  NO private business would survive doing this.  Look at the highly successful University of Phoenix.  It thrives on scrutiny, highly structured programs, job descriptions of minute detail, and yet a McDonald’s approach to service and product.  Everything is designed with clear scripting.  Human services becomes interchangeable parts and those that produce get perks.  That’s why they work, and are growing like crazy, yet can charge very high tuition.  Employees are watched by the all-seeing eye with continuous audit.  They created a niche and tailored a new Big Mac of Education.  It pays and the model of development is a masterpiece of MBA-style machination.  U of Phx could revamp and tailor social services, even getting it in the black within a few years.

Finally, tell the agencies that they must cut more.  Period.

Some of the money MUST go to an audit, but have it run by a small commission panel of investigators.  All programs funded must either show client graduation from services and levels of functioning.  We need to foster self-sufficiency or the social servicing is not solving anything.

The federal government is creating a census of how many times we turn on the lights or how often you drive to the corner.  It’s a huge invasion being created as a data base of citizen activity.  We can definitely audit the money usage we pay.  We are the boss and the legislature needs to respect the job of watchdog.


  1. I would add to your criteria, Gayle, the reading of this article:

    should be required reading by all legislators and social service agencies and their advocates.

    The current ‘one size fits all’ mentality and that requirements are made for the worse case scenario and then applied to all clients is not working. Not every client needs a monthly visit just because one client went off his rocker and did some evil visit. Triaging clients and developing appropriate plans for each one is what is needed – not a cookbook that says each client needs the same recipe for success. The fact 30% of schizophrenics are ‘cured’ without any treatment already suggests that there is not ‘one’ treatment for that population.

    those are my thoughts.

  2. ron,
    that was a very informative articles. I would disagree with one statement:
    “Power-law solutions have little appeal to the right, because they involve special treatment for people who do not deserve special treatment; and they have little appeal to the left, because their emphasis on efficiency over fairness suggests the cold number-crunching of Chicago-school cost-benefit analysis. ”

    He then goes on to give an example of how someone on the right might disagree with the approach but I don’t see what disagreement someone on the left would have. For the homeless problem, for instance, if a large portion are only homeless for very short times (1 or 2 days) in their lives then basically all they is somewhere save to stay for a couple of nights while they work out finding housing with friends, family or others. They don’t need counseling or job training, just a short term inexpensive solution. For the chronically homeless, yes there needs to be a different approach and one that is realistic in achieving some improvement while making choices about how to think about overall costs regardless of the “deserving” aspect. The example from the article of it being less expensive to provide a low cost efficiency apartment for someone vs. the huge health care cost that person will entail being homeless. I don’t see anything objectionable in this discussion and I certainly don’t see something unfair about it.

    Part of the problem is the institutional CYA that I think causes the one size fits all approach.

  3. Honestly, The biggest problem is the systemic policy, often encourages, for agencies small and large to request as much money as possible and then justify using it! Umm, no that is backwards!

    My six year old is a master at this telling me that this week he needs his allowance upped by 30 dollars( from the $2.50 he gets LOL) Why? He wants a Bumblebee Transformers helmet he saw. So his theory is that he needs an increase that magically matched what he needs! I also got a list of all of the ways he loves me or helps. Now, he’s charging about $5 per hug it seems 🙂

    Hmm, even at age six, the lil guy knows that is not working.

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