Better, Faster, Cheaper

Can Massachusetts Get Its Tax Giveaways Under Control?

A few months ago, I wrote about Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's plan to end the state's film tax credit. Powerful opponents succeeded at killing the proposal, but if a pending piece of legislation becomes law, those special interests will have won the battle but lost the war.

Most states offer an array of business tax breaks that result in significant foregone revenue. In Massachusetts, the amount is in the billions. Legislation backed by state Auditor Suzanne Bump would give her office access to business tax returns solely for the purpose of auditing "tax expenditures," as the various tax breaks are known. READ MORE

Go to Jail, Go to School

Last week, President Obama visited a federal prison in Oklahoma to highlight his push to overhaul the nation's criminal justice system. There's certainly plenty of room for improvement, and the San Francisco County sheriff's office is addressing one particularly difficult aspect of the problem with an innovative approach to reducing recidivism and helping inmates reintegrate into society.

Building on data showing that inmates who earn a high school diploma are much less likely to land back in jail, back in 2003 the San Francisco Sheriff's Department (SFSD) sought and received a charter to open a high school for adult inmates in a county jail. Today Five Keys Charter School remains the country's only charter school operated by a sheriff's department. READ MORE

Good Ideas From Government's Front Lines

It is no surprise that front-line employees often have the best ideas for making an organization work better, faster and cheaper. And when a process falls short, they see it firsthand. Led by Chief Performance Officer David Edinger, Denver's Peak Academy is one of the country's most successful efforts to turn the insights of municipal workers into meaningful results.

Peak Academy brings employees together to teach them the skills for making small, continuous improvements in how the city-county government does business. By building an organizational culture in which workers feel empowered to speak up and managers to listen, Edinger hopes to help Denver save money and create more value for citizens. READ MORE

Giving Public Employees Their Due — Without Overdoing It

California is emerging from years of fiscal crisis, while Illinois remains a fiscal basket case. Public-employee labor issues playing out in each state highlight the kind of balance that helps avoid the train wreck that's in California's rearview mirror and is front-and-center for Illinois.

With its credit downgraded due in large part to the nation's most underfunded state pension system, Illinois is still without a budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a budget passed by the Democratic-led state legislature that was more than $3 billion out of balance. READ MORE

Can California Find a Way Out of Its Pension Calamity?

The longer you wait to solve a problem, the more painful the fix becomes. Californians are being reminded of that simple truth as their leaders attempt to grapple with the state's snowballing public pension woes.

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