In search of a political defibrillator

The moribund Illinois GOP and its elected representatives in the General Assembly are candidates for political defibrillation. While some of us will continue to outline specific solutions and practical steps that will lead to a revived Republican Party, it’s great to find examples from other states where real leadership has proven that reform is possible.

Yesterday we noted the Reason Foundation’s “Innovators in Action” report. The following are a few excerpts from their press release with emphasis added:

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“Ask taxpayers and they’ll tell you they pay too much in taxes and government wastes way too much money. Business as usual won’t cut it anymore,” said Geoffrey Segal, director of government reform at Reason Foundation and editor of Innovators in Action. “Change is never easy, but government agencies at every level can learn valuable lessons from these trailblazers who have shown there is a better, more effective and efficient way.”

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“You see several common themes emerge when reading how our leading public servants are stimulating important changes,” Segal said. “They ask simple questions like ‘why is the government running a parking lot.’ They measure results so they know what is working, and what isn’t. And they demand transparency and accountability.”

Some of the insights you’ll find in Reason Foundation’s Innovators in Action include:

Gov. Bill Owens on the Future of Government

“Moving forward governments will be continually forced to innovate and adapt to meet challenges. The private sector, with its access to capital and focus on efficiencies and performance, will be an important partner. In Colorado, we repeatedly used market principles to lower costs and improve services.”

Jeb Bush on Improving State Budgets

“Requiring a balanced budget, allowing the line-item veto, prohibiting earmarks, and capping the growth of government are sound fiscal measures to rein in runaway government spending.”

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Reducing Government Spending

“The key to limited government and fiscal conservatism isn’t just cutting taxes. To energize an economy, government also has to control spending. That’s why I required all department and agency heads to present 5 to 10 percent cuts in their budgets every year. When an agency wanted money for a new project or program, I told them if they could find half the money by trimming their own budget or making the agency more efficient, then I would work with them to provide the other half of their request.”

Giuliani on Privatization and Finding Government’s Proper Role

“We also looked for government-owned properties that the private sector could better manage. You might be shocked to find out that when I became mayor, the city owned a radio station, a television station, parking lots and a number of other endeavors that weren’t within the sphere of the government’s proper role. So I did what any good capitalist would do: I sold them off.”

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle on Government’s Role in Today’s Digital World

“Government’s role in this new world is to ensure that the infrastructure these companies need is up-to-date and that government rules and regulations are not slowing or preventing technological advancements. Of course, it is appropriate for government to ask the private sector to pay a share of or, in some cases, all of the public costs for infrastructure improvements necessary to provide modern technology. But government should not be tacking on an ongoing fee simply because they have the opportunity to do so. In the end, private sector companies should compete in price, quality and quantity, and consumers decide what serves their needs the best.”

Virginia Delegate Chris Saxman on Why State Legislatures Have to Push Reform

“Simply put, if government does not continually try to provide better services at a lower price, it will never keep up with the demands placed upon it via voter action. We have excruciatingly huge liabilities at the federal level that will suffocate the future of our nation if we do not get a hold of them now. One must recognize that the federal legislature and executive branch do not have the political will to deal with the problems for fear of losing their jobs. The states must once again be the laboratories of reform so that the federal government can see that not only is getting the fiscal health of our government necessary, it is politically popular to do so.”

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Innovators in Action is available online at