Just ask Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who is slated to announce his candidacy for mayor of New Orleans after the special session. When Landrieu left the House of Representatives in 2004 to take over the state's No. 2 post, he wanted change ' not quick and hurried change, but a complete and total transformation of state government.
No longer would time be spent on across-the-board cuts. Funds would be shifted around to what each division of culture, recreation and tourism in Landrieu's office deemed as top priorities. Division heads would have to make "offers" and "counter-offers" for their budgets and programs, competing against other division heads for funding.
It's a back-and-forth bartering process that has been used in some form or fashion by big business for decades, and it's a procedure that Landrieu wants implemented statewide.
The lieutenant governor says he can still hear his staff sighing, and see their eyes rolling, when he first dropped the bombshell. They thought he was crazy and overly ambitious and eager for an accomplishment. After all, they were accustomed to management dribble ' every administration seems to come in spouting something or another.
"There was tremendous resistance when we first got there and implemented this," Landrieu says. "Change often comes very hard, and people are suspicious of change early on."
But the tide is finally turning and Landrieu has been touring the state announcing the dramatic overhaul. The "budgeting for outcomes" process will be presented to the Legislature ' for good or ill ' later this spring and the body could kill the program if they so choose.
The new budget was compiled before, during and after last year's hurricanes ' and in the midst of severe cuts. During every step of the process, it was clear that a major change was needed, says AngÃ¨le Davis, secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and the point person overseeing the plan.
"When you talk about a state department whose general fund has been cut by 25 percent, you can't keep doing things that have always been done," she says.
Three parks have lost funding under the new budget, as have three welcome centers. A program that provides new books to state libraries was also axed.
On the other hand, parks with low costs per visitor, no matter their attendance rate, were funded. A "Louisiana Marketplace" is being created to sell local products online and an international marketing program is being pursued.
"We're becoming more entrepreneurial, customer-focused, making programs work for the taxpayers and looking for the biggest return on our investments," she says. "Offers from our divisions had to be efficient to stay alive, and many of the more creative offers focused on economic recovery."
But the operational overhaul is much more than budgeting. A new management plan has also been put in place that strives to boost accountability, establish result-oriented performance and change the overall culture of the department.
Early on in the planning process, the department picked a few areas that needed immediate improvement. The steps are referred to as "quick wins." While the changes that transpired were somewhat simple, Davis says they set the tone for how future goals might be approached.
"[State] workers are not used to having the freedom to make recommendations to improve processes," she says. "But once they are empowered to ask why they do certain things, or why something operates a certain way, they do so. It's an analytical approach."
For example, it used to take 27 days for parks, welcome centers and trade shows to request and receive informational material from the department. By examining the process, the staff cut out a few middlemen, converted to an e-mail system and sent requests directly to the distribution center. Not only did the changes cut the turnaround time down to just a few days, but it also saved the department $43,000 annually.
The new budgeting process and management plan came as a result of a study the department conducted with David Osborne of the Minnesota-based Public Strategies Group. Osborne, who has written five books on reinventing government, is a guru of sorts when it comes to this kind of work.
"Bureaucracy is the excretion of a thousand rules and a thousand steps," he says. "They build up over time. The reasons they are not routinely weeded out is because there is no competition. Private companies have to do this stuff or die."
Making government run more like a business is a mantra that has been around for decades. The end results, however, have been varied and Landrieu's team is hoping not to repeat history.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who Osborne once consulted for, took up the reinventing government fad in the early '90s. Robert McNamara implemented statistical budgeting guidelines in Washington, based on a formula used by Ford Motor, and former President Jimmy Carter was a champion of zero-based budgeting. None of these attempts ever took hold in a real way.
More recently, former Gov. Gary Locke of Washington ' who Landrieu and Osborne cite as a success ' implemented a priority-based budgeting system in 2002, only to find himself with a $1 billion deficit two years later and a massive tax proposal to fix the problem.
Landrieu says Washington's fiscal woes cannot solely be blamed on the budgeting system or Locke's efforts to reinvent government. It's like comparing apples to oranges, he adds. Louisiana is facing an uncertain future due to the hurricanes and a governmental revolution must be pushed forward.
"This is not just about saving money," Landrieu says. "This is about transforming government."
While it might not be just about saving money, the program isn't cheap. Osborne says he was paid an initial, one-time $50,000 consulting fee when the process began two years ago, which didn't require a bidding process. Then, based on bids submitted for the plan he helped create, Osborne's firm was awarded a competitive $700,000 two-year contract, which is in its final term and includes an option to renew beginning in 2007 if needed.
Based on several cost-cutting measures by Landrieu and his staff, the savings ' in excess of $150,000 right now ' do not yet outweigh the costs, and the program has been an additional burden on the departmental budget, as any new program would.
When asked for a cost-benefit analysis of the expenses related to the program, Landrieu attempted a forward-looking assessment: If the program proves to be successful for his department, and other areas of state government pick it up, then the resulting savings would significantly outstrip the price tag.
"That's the whole idea here," Landrieu says. "The idea is to use the department as an example of how every other department can be run more efficiently."
But before any of this can happen, Landrieu and company must first get by the Legislature, which includes members with pet projects that have been cut by the priority-based budgeting system. Lawmakers will also have to find ways to deal with the impacted constituencies and other departments will have to show some willingness to adopt the program.
"We have turned the old process upside down," Davis says. "If people don't understand what we're doing or don't support the process, they could make trouble for us. But the process we use makes sense. We're making state government more competitive."
The Lafayette Parish School Board's mishandling of its insurance selection process over the last two years has caught the attention of the FBI.
Kids under 18 will have to pursue skin cancer the old-fashioned way.
Lafayette Parish School Board member Kermit Bouillion says he will defend his District 5 seat in the upcoming election.
The Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity sent the pledge request to all 144 lawmakers in February.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound former second-round pick has gone to three Pro Bowls in his five seasons.
The state argues that if they identify how they're getting the drugs, they could have trouble buying more because companies don't want to be known as helping in an execution.
The enrollment period ends this month.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.