State & local governments are under particular duress this year, with the challenge of balancing their budgets even while unemployment insurance systems and social programs are increasingly depleted and pension systems face a shortfall. By some estimates, 44 states and the District of Columbia are facing budget crises that total more than $6 billion.
Local and municipal governments, which provide so much direct service to citizens, are being hard hit by slashed state aid.
When forced to cut their workforces and reduce or eliminate redundant programs, do state and local governments have an opportunity to innovate when faced with budget shortfalls?
Do you see state and local governments being more innovative now with the budget pressures they face? Or is this current budget crisis one in which our education and training programs at the state and local level will suffer, with no possible upside?
I believe that state and local governments have been innovative for a long time. Certainly the environment over the past four + years have required reductions, and sadly, more may be coming. However, partnerships with non-profits, volunteerism and other agencies has started. What is woefully lacking in some places is partnerships with other governmental agencies. It is certainly occurring, but not as much as it should. I don’t think education and training programs spend enough money to make the difference in the changes that have to be made.
I feel that this innovation has to encompass our succession planning, mentoring and training programs. We need to be open to innovation and make this a part of preparing agencies to function more effectively and efficiently.
We also need to embrace technologies that can provide better communication to and feedback from citizens. As top talent leaves or retires and FTE counts drop, we can provide better service with fewer bodies.
I’m an MPA student, and had a couple opportunities this year to work directly with local governments on projects to develop innovative ways to address budget issues. Students provide an obvious benefit, since we are not paid for the work that we do, and are ecstatic to get the hands-on experience while we are in school. I think more local governments should take advantage of student projects as a low-cost way to generate innovative ideas!