Monday, September 15, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Saving Can Be Costly

State studies of how to save state dollars sure can add up. Ever wonder who really gains in efforts to help taxpayers by cutting government costs?

Saving Can Be Costly

Ever notice how government spends money to help taxpayers save money by cutting government costs?

Ever wonder why year after year, no matter who's in charge, we foot the bill for outsourced, private-sector studies of how to make government more efficient?

I do. And I wonder why nothing ever seems to change as the money for this near-constant flow of new reviews lines the pockets of those whose pockets already are very well lined.

Take, for example, a report by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the Corbett administration hired a New York investment firm that employs Ed Rendell to help with efforts to privatize parts of state government.

The firm, Greenhill & Co., hired Rendell last February as a part-time advisor to, according to a company spokesman, focus on expanding its "client advisory activities," biz-buzz for being a rainmaker.

This is one of Rendell's roughly 14 jobs, including his gig as a Daily News sports columnist.

Greenhill says the former Guv won't be involved in the new state project.

And why would he? Why use arguably the most wonkish PA pol ever, someone who pushed privatization of the Turnpike, on a privatization project in a state he ran for eight years?

The state is paying the Park Avenue global company $150,000 for three months, with the possibility of an extended contract, to work with Corbett's already existing privatization commission on ways to save money.

I can think of one way right off the bat. And what good's the commission if you need to hire an out-of-state firm to help it?

This is not unlike the state paying the Philly-based firm Public Financial Management $275,000 for a study this year that suggests the state should sell off the State Stores.

I guess every idea to save money requires spending money to validate it.

But it's hard not to think that somewhere in the vast recesses of government and public academia there aren't some politicallly unconnected experts with verifiable ideas on savings. And if there aren't, one wonders about the quality of such public employees and the necessity of their employment.

I think the same thing every time there's legal trouble in government or the legislature -- both entities packed with lawyers -- and the first thing done is to hire outside, private counsel.

None of this is a Democratic or Republican thing. It's a political thing. Both sides like a show. Both sides like to roll out studies to make a case or prove a point then later boast about how much they've saved taxpayers.

It's just that savings, if they actually happen, sometimes can be costly.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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