The Texas State Comptroller’s office has unveiled the Texas Transformation (T2) a new Web resource. T2 begins with five concrete challenges for policymakers.

The challenges are:

Below is a preview of the current detail under each challenge identified by the Comptroller. In the coming months, the Comptroller’s office will have more to say about these challenges, and how Texas should respond to them,

Study and streamline state purchasing.

We should take a top-to-bottom look at what goods and services government buys and how it buys them, identifying opportunities for smarter, leaner procurement through bulk purchasing, strategic sourcing and the use of technology to eliminate paperbound processes.

We should examine contracting processes, to ensure that the state pays no more than the amounts originally negotiated. And we should seek ways to achieve savings through greater integration with local governments.

Study ways to reform state budget policies to eliminate “use it or lose it” spending and reward cost-effective management.

Any middle manager in state government knows that they must spend all their budgets before the end of each fiscal year, to ensure they’ll receive at least that much next year. Texas state agencies are being penalized for spending conservatively. Unless this pattern can be changed, no effort to contain state spending will be complete.

Expand state partnerships with Texas local governments.

We must ensure that our local governments are fully involved in state policy decisions, since we all serve the same citizens. Texas state government should partner with and assist local governments through state purchasing contracts, the sale of surplus state equipment and the dissemination of best practices throughout government.

Increase the use of shared services among all levels of government.

Texas governments should seek opportunities to share responsibilities and achieve greater economies of scale by reorganizing, consolidating or eliminating duplicated functions. This effort would foster transparency and could involve the creation of:

  • consolidated state websites organized by topic for ease of use rather than by agency structure
  • shared information technology services, at least for smaller agencies
  • a mechanism for sharing best practices
  • “one-stop shopping,” offering citizens a variety of state services through a single point of contact

…and many other options.

Focus on educational spending and educational opportunities for Texans.

Education is Texas state government’s single biggest investment, accounting for 41.4 percent of all appropriations and 60.7 percent of general revenue spending in the 2010-11 biennium. It’s a huge but vital commitment.

Government finances rely entirely on the ability of the private sector to generate jobs, and that ability may be compromised by Texas’ looming shortage of trained technical workers. State government should ensure that young Texans are trained for rewarding careers in the new century.

And technology can help Texans better understand how their educational dollars are spent — and what that spending achieves. New tools such as the Comptroller’s Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST) can give citizens the knowledge they need to become involved in public policy decisions — to have a bigger voice in crucial spending decisions that affect us all. We also should look at opportunities in university and college spending to achieve savings and business process improvements.