MN counties to offer a state 'Redesign Plan'
The daunting depth of Minnesota's projected 2 1/2 -year state budget deficit - $5.27 billion - provides challenges as well as opportunities. No simple patches will get us by, something drastic needs to be done. Starting over at the beginning and ...
The daunting depth of Minnesota's projected 2½-year state budget deficit - $5.27 billion - provides challenges as well as opportunities. No simple patches will get us by, something drastic needs to be done. Starting over at the beginning and determining what Minnesotans need from government, not want, may be the first step.
Many ideas that got deep-sixed before need to be reanalyzed, and new ideas given the opportunity for discussion and perhaps even put in place.
The Association of Minnesota Counties has been working on such an idea for more than two years, with the state at a crossroads of trying to match limited and disappearing financial resources with burgeoning state services, the timing couldn't be better to try an idea that essentially starts from the beginning.
AMC's "Minnesota Redesign Project," approved at the organization's annual conference, calls on a new way of delivering government services that focus on governance, transparency and flexibility. The counties are taking a lead role, since a huge part of the state budget goes to them to administer and deliver the services that are mandated by the state. They range from administering and delivery of welfare programs to needy families, to housing short-term felons in county jails, to delivering on the state's behalf a host of mental health services to vulnerable children and adults.
The counties' Redesign Plan asks the state to give local governments flexibility in how they deliver those services, judging their effectiveness on predetermined outcomes and goals. It means, instead of requiring counties to provide a certain percentage match for a service based on its usage, providing more state funding to county programs that work in reducing usage of the program.
In other areas, the state requires every county to pay a base amount, called maintenance of effort, for some services regardless of their usage. For example, counties are required to maintain the same level of spending for mental health at the same level as in 2004 and 2005, creating an arbitrary spending floor. Clay County, which includes Moorhead, had its spending floor set at a time when the Fergus Falls State Hospital was closed in favor of community-based mental health services. Today, Clay County must maintain a level of spending even though usage is way off prior levels.
AMC has some ideas for the Legislature as well, such as limiting the number of legislative committees and have them mirrored in the House and Senate, eliminate omnibus bills which have become vehicles to change policy, hold all conference committee meetings to the Open Meeting Law, and provide budget impact notes and budget scoring for all bills.
State government should start over, and rebuild the state services that people need, and allow local governments to deliver those services with flexibility that is accountable and based on providing results.