Other agencies should follow DMV's example

Posted: Sunday, September 12, 2004

The recent move by the Division of Motor Vehicles to privatize some of its more routine functions is an idea whose time has come.

A trip to the DMV has long been cited as an example of all that's wrong with government. Long lines, crowded offices and confusing bureaucracy have made this experience one to dread.

Here in the central Kenai Peninsula, however, the DMV may have finally found a way to make a U-turn in the image department.

With Alaska Express, area residents can get many of the things that used to be handled at the DMV tags, titles and registrations done at a private business. Not only is this more convenient for customers who want to renew registrations or other fees, it cuts down significantly on the lines people have to stand in for license renewals at the DMV.

Not only that, but because it's a private business, Alaska Express has the ability to keep later hours and hire new employees when things get busy.

With the new program, the state has made things easier for taxpayers to get their business done without raising taxes by one penny. In the future, the decrease in customers showing up at the DMV could actually cause the division to cut its budget. While this may not be good news for a few state employees, it is for those of us who foot the bill.

In addition to the cost and time savings, the state has helped to create a new small business in Soldotna.

Alaska Express is an example of what can happen when state officials start looking at real ways to cut costs and make things easier for their bosses the taxpayers instead of simply asking for more money. The example set by the division shows that the best way to improve state government is to make it smaller.

Hopefully, other state and local government agencies are taking note of the example set by the DMV.

How many functions of state government could be better handled by the private sector? Although certain things likely will always have to be taken care of by the taxpayers law enforcement and education are the most obvious much of the work done by the government could be handled by the public sector in the future.

Forced by budget cuts, the Alaska Division of Parks already has begun to move in this direction by handing over maintenance at some state parks to private companies. At the time this change began, state officials bemoaned their lack of funding as an indication that the budget was at a critical shortage. However, we think that any move that turns the people's land and the people's business back over to the people is a step in the right direction.

Of course, state bureaucrats will complain about losing their jobs. But with more and more private businesses opening up, they should have no trouble finding new ones.

This doesn't mean all state and local government workers are expendable. We're always going to need public employees to build roads and keep the streets safe.

But we feel it's time our elected officials and department heads start looking at ways to get out of the people's business.

In these times of dwindling budgets, public officials seem to be more than willing to ask the people to come up with ways (income taxes, permanent fund revenues, user fees, etc.) to foot the bill. But ideas like Alaska Express seem to be few and far between.

State officials need to follow the DMV's lead and look for creative ways to make government work more for the people, rather than for itself.

After all, isn't that what we're paying them for?

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