Government Waste

April 17, 2013

Sen. Jason Welch: Government Waste

Monday, April 15, 2013

The state legislature is about to begin the budget debate. Currently, we are facing a $2 billion shortfall during the next two years, notwithstanding the largest tax increase in the history of our state just two years ago. To set the stage for this debate, I have decided to use this weekly column to highlight government waste and excess, and to offer common-sense solutions to government’s appetite.

It is often said there is a lot of waste in government, but exactly where is the waste, and can it be corrected?

One answer to the question is found in how government administers social programs. Nearly $4 billion is spent each year on social services and social programs.

That is 22 percent of total state spending in FY2013. Major components of this category include Medicaid and welfare programs like food stamps, rental and heating assistance, homeless shelters and others.

I acknowledge that there is a need to help many of those who use these services, but we are paying too much for delivery. They could be done far more efficiently and inexpensively by private non-profits.

The governor has actually proposed in his budget this year to save approximately $260,000 in both FY 2014 and FY 2015 by allowing respite care programs in the community to be handled by private providers.

Respite care is a temporary, substitute living arrangement for dependent adults or children, which provides a brief period of relief or rest, usually more than 24 hours, for the family members, guardians or other people who are their regular caregivers.

This is a good idea. But there is so much more that can be done. For example, the state uses what’s referred to as a “dual delivery” system. We have state-run group homes, state-run hospitals, and state-run mental facilities and the like. We also support non-profit agencies in our communities that do the same thing. Most states don’t do both.

The state should get out of the social services business and instead fully fund non-profits.

Non-profits that provide services to the poor, the disabled, the sick and the elderly, provide care to those people for about 50 cents on the dollar for what the state spends on the same group of people. Some would argue that those non-profits deliver better care.

It is estimated that such a change in delivery would save the state millions every year.

There are examples like this throughout state government, and that’s why we need to look first for ways to cut costs, consolidate agencies and programs, and eliminate waste and inefficiency.

Our current state budget is 287.5 percent higher than it was in 1987. Our population is dwindling, which means each taxpayer who can afford to foot the bill has a bigger piece of the pie to pay for.

If we can collectively find more ways to cut back government spending, we will all benefit.

If you see government waste, please feel free to contact my office at 1-800-842-1421 or e-mail me at [email protected].

Additionally, if you need to find a respite care provider, the United Way has a database you can search by visiting www.211ct.org.

Next week, we will take a look at social service fraud. Are people taking advantage of the system?

State Sen. Welch represents district 31, including the towns of Thomaston, Plainville, Plymouth, Bristol and Harwinton.