Still, there is some very good news in how the state governmental process has achieved results - and is on a course for continued improvement.
A case in point is workers compensation reform. Workers comp costs continue their steady decline for most businesses, a result of reforms enacted three years ago. The recent overhauling of the state's Second Injury Fund (which threatened to swallow whole the workers comp gains), a nearly 50-year-old program, is further evidence that difficult decisions can be hammered out by government in spite of serious obstacles and entrenched
Of equal interest is the recent agreement hammered out on the state budget, as well as sweeping welfare reforms. While we agree the budget is not without certain elements of gimmickry, the bottom line is that spending in state government is under increasing scrutiny and control.
Of particular significance is welfare reform. Connecticut has achieved some sweeping reforms, accomplished through a bipartisan (and, mostly, civil) discourse. While many, including the governor, have characterized the state's welfare reforms as the “toughest in the nation,” we see in the effort a potential model for national reform of a deeply flawed system.
Many observers have chosen to concentrate on reductions in benefits and the elimination of aid to some recipients to characterize the reform. We elect to see government working well by encouraging current recipients to transition to work by allowing them to maintain medical benefits and additional outside income.
The mythology of welfare fraud has, more than any other single factor, undermined public support for the safety net. Ironically, the seemingly Orwellian proposal to require fingerprinting of aid recipients may in fact strengthen the hand of welfare advocates by finally dispelling the myth of out-of-control fraud. More importantly, the reform's provisions demonstrates that government is able and ready to reconstruct its approaches to social maladies.
It's time now for municipal governments to step up to
the plate and to create a vision that moves beyond merely more efficient management to some fundamental reinvention. In New Haven, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has made a public commitment to zero-sum examination of virtually all services the city now provides (with the exception, he joked, of the mayor's office). Although the outcry from unions and patronage politicians is predictable, it will be loud and long.
If the initiative on “innovation and productivity” can weather the hue and cry, it will have taken its first significant step on the road to real structural improvements. BNH