Fudging Green

Building contractor to his purchasing agent: “Do you remember where we got that aluminum? Do you have the receipt? We’ve got to do something to claim the LEED level the owners want to represent.”

Purchasing agent: Well, the company was bought by another company. I think it was 30% recycled content.”

Building contractor: “OK. Put it down on the LEED certification form.”

Outstanding State Employees

Outstanding state employees

I was privileged to have several private conversations with managers in the Helena state bureaucracy. One told me that he had employees that were more dedicated than some he had as a manager in the private sector. I believe him. I saw excellence in employees during the legislative session. Hard work, enthusiasm, good attitude under pressure, long hours, no complaints. It was gratifying to see.

Surely, the range of employee motivation, efficiency and accuracy exists in state government as it does elsewhere. Lack of measurement systems precludes rewarding the best.

Pleasantly Surprised

Pleasantly Surprised

In the legislature, the degree of comity between Republicans and Democrats surprised me. I expected worse partisanship. News accounts augured this expectation. I enjoyed a fairly collegial working relationship with legislators with whom I expected to find little hope of cooperation. I found common ground that I never knew existed. Courteous modes of address prevailed. Democrats voted for Republican bills and vice versa. Rebukes were rare. Personal warmth was evident even when ideas clashed.

Some of the areas of unexpected agreement:

  • Tax reform should flatten tax breaks; it should be broad rather than targeted.
  • Business creates jobs. (Though the moniker “corporation” choked Democrats.)
  • Wasting money on administrative churn is not approved. Save money for real work, beneficial purposes.
  • Highest value projects should expect funding over lower value projects.
  • Some Democrats shunted worse case scenarios associated with resource development and approved coal, oil and transmission projects.
  • A reverence for the Constitution was stated, even by some who favored greater government control. Ideas on particular Constitutional provisions and understandings did vary.
  • Humor arose from unexpected exchanges.

Gates on Waste

Bill Gates writes in today’s Wall Street Journal:

“The case made by Mr. Kenny in “Getting Better” is a powerful antidote to overly gloomy assessments of development aid. Wasteful and corrupt aid projects are probably inevitable, and they should never be tolerated. But overall, when you look at the big picture, quite a lot of good things are happening.

What’s more, the book suggests ways to make aid more efficient and effective.”

Gates mentions worthy goals that can apply as much to federal, state and local government spending as to international aid: curtailing waste, seeking to make programs more efficient and effective. These goals are almost universally admired.

Week in Hospital: 84 cents.

Man, 85, spends week in hospital. He dies. Medicare pays $49,999.16. Medicare bills widow $.84.

Where does the $49,999.16 come from? From taxpayers, the Chinese, and Bernanke inflation bucks.

Work Slowdown, Few Workers Lost

At State Fund, the state run worker’s compensation program, the workload has shrunk 12%, but the agency only has 3% fewer employees. Shrinkage resistant.

Policies in force went from 30,641 to 27,136; full time equivalent State Fund employees went from about 295 to 285.

52% Administration Cost

52% Administration Cost

Montana Disability Transition Program

$13 million administration, $12 million benefits and services

48% benefits and services

How long would the United Way president keep the job if this was their percentage?

Most highly efficient charities are able to spend 75% or more on programs.

To see detail, follow this link and go to page B-45.

House Spending Committee

Would you trust these 20 people to spend $10 billion of your money?

School’s Fun, Except for Classes

Two twelve year-olds bicycled past the house yesterday. One said, “School’s really kind of fun in a way, except when it comes to classes. That’s boring.”

Weatherizing the Capitol

Energy policy begins with conservation: shut windows.

Windows at the capitol were often left ajar. Fresh air trumped energy conservation. I'm helping out by closing this one.