Policy Documents

Idaho Report on Government Waste

September 1, 2012

As you pick up this report, an obvious question emerges: How is it thatlocal and state government officials contend they’ve cut spending, andyet our annual report on government waste keeps getting bigger? Theanswer is, while some segments of government have indeed been cut,vast examples of government excess remain. So what’s left? Our reporthighlights:

• Programs that defy the proper role of government.

• Programs intended to make politicians appear that they “care” fortheir constituents but do little else.

• Policies that are designed to interfere in the marketplace attaxpayer expense.

• Forced charity at taxpayer expense, often with no results, butmore often prolonging the very problems the programs weresupposed to combat.

• Government projects that fail or increase in cost as a result ofpoor planning.

• Expensive contracts that dispense favors to a particular interestgroup.

• Special perks and favors being given out by government atconsiderable expense.In the following pages you will see billions of dollars in government waste– from the Statehouse to our city halls.

Some of the spending will make you angry. Some government spending appears so silly, it will make youlaugh. Most of all, we hope it will make you think.We encourage rigorous critique of our work. We believe the conclusionsreached are a fair and true assessment of government in Idaho.As in previous years, some will vehemently disagree with us and rejectour conclusions. That’s OK. If government spending is appropriate, eventhe most zealous defenders of a program should have no problem withour asking questions, kicking the tires of government and makingsuggestions for change. No government program or expense should beabove scrutiny. There are no sacred cows.We believe this is important because every dollar used to rungovernment is money that had to be forcibly extracted from the privatesector. This impacts everyone.

To the waitress working tables at your favorite restaurant, the moneygovernment takes out of private sector productivity impacts every aspectof her finances. The more money that’s taken out of the economy, theless money there is for companies to meet a payroll. The less moneyavailable for payrolls, the less likely it is our waitress will see a raise.Without a raise, our waitress friend will have less money to spend onfood, clothing and other necessities. She’ll have less money to pay herrent. She’ll have less money to buy Christmas presents for her kids. Ofcourse, with less money in the economy, it’s quite possible her boss will choose to have a restaurant with one less waitress.Because of her struggle, some folks in the government and in electedoffice will want to help.

They’ll add government employees armed withknowledge and good intentions to try help her with her issues. They’ll add entitlements – a program to help her pay for food, a program to helpher pay for medicine, a program to help her get insurance, a program tohelp with rent. If her job ends because the restaurant didn’t have enoughmoney to retain employees, the government will try to help with her withunemployment benefits, job retraining programs and career counselors.But we forget this waitress would have been better off if elected officialshad only figured out how to keep money in the private sector. It’s notglamorous, but it is the most definitive way to help ordinary people whosimply want their own shot at the American Dream.Whether you are a taxpayer or an elected official, we hope you’ll thinkabout our waitress friend as you read the pages that follow. Ask whethergovernment’s spending decisions ultimately benefit or hurt her.Despite the fact that our report on government waste keeps growing,lawmakers are listening.

Last year, much of our report was devoted tourban renewal projects. Lawmakers responded by changing urbanrenewal laws. More needs to happen, but 2011 gave us the first realreforms in a generation. Also last year, much of our report was devotedto labor union master teacher contracts. The Legislature responded withreforms to public school collective bargaining agreements. In previousyears, governing agencies and officials have eliminated entire programsand subsidies highlighted in our annual report.Finally, last year, we pointed out that too many elected officials andbureaucrats make a distinction between state spending and federalspending. We do not. In the pages that follow, we consider wasteful orreckless spending of taxpayer dollars regardless of the source. The public is focused like a laser on the growing problem of federal spending. Idaho officials should be, too.