Listen to the full testimony here. The bill testimony begins at 1:20:30. Buckstein testimony begins at 1:56:17.
Before the House Consumer Protection and Government Accountability Committee in favor of prioritizing Core Functions of State Government
By Steve Buckstein
Good afternoon, Chair Holvey and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a public policy research center based in Portland.
I’m here to lend my support to the idea that Oregonians would be well-served by our state government going through the process of determining what the Core Functions of government should be.
Government cannot and should not do everything. But we haven’t done a very good job of instructing our state legislature and state agencies exactly what our priorities are.
This idea was brought home to me in 1997 when I attended a hearing in this building.* Bill Scott, Director of the Economic and Community Development Department, was asked by freshman legislator Ryan Deckert (D) what the department’s highest-priority activities were. Without hesitation, Scott replied that everything his department did was high priority.
Rep. Deckert then asked what would be cut if the department’s budget ended up smaller than requested. Scott shot back that he couldn’t cut anything, repeating that everything was a top priority.
I never forgot that exchange. If everything is a top priority, then nothing is a top priority.
House Bill 3614 is a first step toward setting real priorities. If done right, the Task Force can help every agency become more accountable and more transparent. This should make your job as legislators easier, too, because you’ll have objective benchmarks to look at when deciding what to fund and how much to fund it.
I encourage you to begin this process now with the passage of HB 3614.
* House Committee on Agency Oversight and Efficiency, April 8, 1997
Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.