Thursday, February 09, 2012

Legislators Win A Rare One for Taxpayers

I have often noted that when people elect a legislator who is serious about reducing the size and scope of government, they are not only opposed by legislators who want the opposite but also by the vast bureaucracy which actually runs the government.    I was reminded of that today visiting with Rep. Lori Benedict.

There was an agency (DFA) recently who continued to pay insurance benefits for over two hundred "phantom" employees.   The agency had been cut and they were hoping to lobby and get those cuts restored.   They did not want the newly hired employees to wait ninety days for health insurance, so they just kept paying the insurance premiums even though there was no employee connected to those payments.   This might have been going on for years.   Rep. Benedict noted that the agency head would never give a straight yes or no answer to the question of whether or not they were paying insurance premiums for positions for which there was no employee.     She finally told the fellow "I am taking that as a yes" and helped pass a bill barring the practice.

One of the downsides about term limits is that they increase the power of the unelected at the expense of officials who are elected.   The bureaucrats know so much more about how the system works than the legislators do, they can run rings around them.   They know they can wait a legislator out.   They know that they have the institutional knowledge.    I have seen bureaucrats put out staggering misinformation about a bill in order to scare legislators out of voting for it- or to provide cover for a legislator who wants to be lied to so they can have an excuse to tell the folks back home.

There needs to be some sort of system where legislators can hold accountable staff who withhold information or give them bad information.   The can only make laws that are as good as the information they are given.

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