COMMENTARY: Delaware Sunset Committee needs more support

Delaware’s legislature needs to invest some dollars in itself! The Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee can do a lot more to help our state ensure our tax dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively. Their current work schedule is light and their results fall way short in comparison to many states.

Our legislature needs to invest in this process by hiring additional full-time staff, trained to complete in-depth, holistic reviews of our agencies and boards. This would considerably strengthen the work of the Joint Sunset and Oversight Committee. They currently do a good job, but there is significant room for improvement.

Bill Bowden

I believe that Delaware’s Sunset Committee is essential to running an efficient and effective state government. The periodic review of our agencies and boards also helps gain and preserve the confidence of its citizens that the state is spending our tax money wisely. This important comprehensive review shines a light on state agencies and programs to see how well they are operating in a changing world, while asking if they continue to be needed and how they can do their jobs better.

These reviews should also look to ensure multiple agencies are not providing duplicate services. Unfortunately, this committee, supported by one on-loan employee, only conducts about four to six reviews a year in Delaware. At that rate, with over 300 agencies and organizations, we would see 50 years go by before all entities are reviewed even once. It appears some major entities have never been reviewed.

When you look at sunset committees in other states, you realize that better results can and should come from this process. More than half of the states have sunset-type commissions or committees. The one most often used as a benchmark is in Texas who started approximately the same year as Delaware. While recognizing there may be some mitigating differences, you have to question some of the comparative data since inception.

Texas has abolished 39 agencies/boards and consolidated 46 others. Delaware has abolished two and consolidated zero. Texas has saved 981 million dollars and Delaware has not reported any savings. Texas reports a $23 savings for every $1 invested in this process. To me, this clearly shows that Delaware can reap major rewards by making changes to its approach with our sunset committee. Texas has elected to staff its commission with a full-time professional staff, selected with an educational and experience background that meets the evaluative needs of this job while Delaware plunders along with one on loan employee.

I strongly encourage our legislature to take a closer look at the opportunities available to leverage this process into additional savings for our state. They should move to staff this process with a full-time professional staff. They also should consider the addition of some type of mini-review for the less complicated entities that would provide for more timely, efficient and effective process.

This is a good time to address this as the legislature will soon look at the proposed (HB260) new Joint Grant-In-Aid Committee, which is another step in the right direction for our state. Legislators and taxpayers in Delaware both want to ensure that the over $47 million do allocated to nonprofits in Delaware are being spent efficiently, effectively and getting the desired results. Unfortunately, the bill contains no funding for staff support to help conduct in-depth reviews. Without the required support they will be challenged to get the desired results.

I believe the suggested additional staff could be sized to support both committees in helping the Delaware legislature achieve its goals for the Delaware taxpayers. This would be a sound investment in both committee processes that would help Delaware reap significant dollar savings and benefits for many years ahead from both processes.

I strongly encourage our legislature to adopt these suggestions. Sometimes you need to spend a little money to save a lot!

Bill Bowden is a retired Verizon Delaware executive, past president of the Delaware Quality Award, and served for eight years in state government as the executive director of Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information.

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