Roughly 200 small state agencies, boards and commissions collectively collect and spend millions of dollars.
Gov. Phil Bryant, bless his heart, has again called for a check on state government bureaucracy spending as he has to little avail since 2012. In his budget recommendation for the coming year, he’s calling for a “shared services model” for many small government agencies, boards and commissions. He suggests they share back-office operations such as accounting, budgeting, payroll, grants and procurement.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann a few years ago reported that about 60 cents of every dollar the state spent was controlled by an un-elected agency, board or commission. A recent legislative change in special-fund spending has likely reduced that, but what I’ve referred to in the past as “the great, creeping appointed bureaucracy” in state government still costs taxpayers with little oversight.
And anti-big government folks have questioned the need for many of the state’s occupational licensure boards and whether they stifle the free market. They are run by appointees, mostly members of the industries they regulate, posing a potential conflict of interest. A bill passed last year gave the governor, attorney general and secretary of state some oversight of regulations passed by occupational boards. Other recent legislation eliminated a few boards that had been essentially dormant for years.
But major consolidation or elimination of state agencies, boards and commissions has been thwarted. The little government fiefdoms have proved something of a political third rail. They have legislative and political clout. For instance, no elected leader relishes the prospect of thousands of cosmetologists or barbers mad at them for trying to consolidate the two separate boards that oversee and license them.
Bryant has admitted he underestimated the “political support system” many little agencies and boards have. His new recommendation, Bryant said, “does not contemplate a massive consolidation of state agencies.” Instead, he recommends a small number of boards be chosen for shared services, then more added later.
This would be a start to reducing the cost of an outsized bureaucracy for a state that can’t afford it. But opposition to such moves has been strong and bipartisan.