A newly created agency whose goal is to evaluate the effectiveness of state services officially begins its work this week.
The 12-member Commission on Evaluation of Services, which meets Monday for the first time, includes six lawmakers and six other members appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey.
The rationale behind the agency is solid. As the demands for state funds grow, lawmakers want programs receiving funding to be checked out to make sure they are still meeting the needs of the populations they are serving.
It’s a common sense approach to budgeting that the public should embrace.
Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, sponsored the legislation, which was approved this past session in both the House and Senate without opposition. His service on the House General Fund budget committee spawned the idea for the legislation.
He said too often he found himself having to approve funding for services about which he knew little or nothing. He had no idea if the money was being used as it was supposed to be used, and he didn’t know how many people were benefiting from the funds.
Simply put, Wingo wanted to “understand where the people’s money is going.”
That should be a goal of each and every one of our state lawmakers.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, has been on budgeting committees during three governors’ administrations. He said when lawmakers allocate money, they don’t always know the results of the programs they’re funding.
“We don’t know if they’ve been evaluated, or if we’re funding programs that have never been evaluated and are never going to die because they’re never scrutinized — that makes no sense,” Orr said.
Critics of the legislation have characterized it as a witch hunt solely dedicated to shaming agencies. Some of that criticism is nothing more than an effort to protect the inflow of state cash. An agency that is fiscally responsible and is meeting its stated public obligations has nothing to fear.
In fact, the scrutiny of state agencies could prove beneficial to those agencies that are truly doing a good job. Funds being allocated to services that are no longer necessary, or those with diminishing success, can be reallocated to the more efficient agencies.
“Everyone is in this to try to find a better, leaner way to do business,” said Wingo of the commission’s purpose.
With funding requests for state agencies outpacing the available revenue on an annual basis, it’s important for lawmakers to have as much information as they can get so that funding decisions can be educated choices, not rote approvals.