In the text of the Farm Bill – (HR 2419) The Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2007 – the US House of Representatives has called for yet another mandate restricting the use of private sector solutions like competitive sourcing. This time the mandate effects the administration of the Food Stamp Program within state-operated health and human services programs. This blatant attack on the authority and rights of Governors and state legislatures would prohibit access to the latest technologies and most cost-effective manners for administering the program not to mention the fact that it would also put an end to numerous modernization contracts which are already in place. Will the Senate pass a comparable provision this fall? If so, the existing programs that have utilized non-profit and/or private sector contracts would cease, thus pulling the rug out from under efforts which are crucial to updating technology and increasing the level of service to the program’s recipients. Multiple states have integrated the administration of their Food Stamp Program with their welfare system so there is sure to be a breakdown there as well. We here at Reason know that competitive sourcing determines the most efficient and effective source for providing services. Not only has it been shown time after time to save money; it also increases accountability on the part of the private bidder and the government employees. The flexibility that the states have been able to engage in by integrating, streamlining and consolidating the wide array of health and human services has benefited taxpayers. Currently, many health and human services structures at the state level allow for resources to be shifted to core areas of the program resulting in a more effective and efficient system overall but, that can all change with this legislation. Each state has different financial and governmental structures. It is the Governor and state legislatures who have been elected to research, develop, debate and deliver services to the citizens who voted to provide that right to them. It is not the job of Congress to dictate federal unfunded mandates in state administration but they are doing it anyway. If this bill passes in its current form, the flexibility that states currently enjoy will be taken away, health and human services will crumble and fall apart in many states, and taxpayers will be left holding the bill. For more on Reason’s government reform efforts, click here.
Amanda Kathryn Hydro is the Director of Policy Development at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.