Local government in Michigan has been operating under the shadow of the Economic Vitality and Incentive Program, or EVIP for the last two years. The EVIP program has three basic components, transparency, cooperation & consolidation, and employee compensation. The State of Michigan has set arbitrary requirements that if met, allow local government to get 2/3 of the revenue sharing money they had previously received without any strings. Why did this happen? The state needs to create incentives for good government, because the locals clearly can’t achieve these objectives without help from above (please note sarcasm).
What has been accomplished through EVIP is nothing short of remarkable! We have a program that has created new levels of bureaucracy at both the state and local level. Added additional costs. Stymied cooperative efforts. Confused labor negotiations and contract administration. Most importantly we have established a system that rather than spur innovation, encourages communities to manage to the prescribed targets.
Hitting a target is easy, it’s like checking a box…done. But is that what we really want? Take the second leg of EVIP. It requires one additional cooperative effort each year to receive funding. Knowing that I need “ONE” every year, how many do you think I will implement on an annual basis? When the state tells me to get funding I must publish certain information on my website, what gets published? Its not what I think my community cares about, I “HIT” the target. If I am negotiating labor agreements can I maximize my leverage when certain outcomes are predetermined, or do I ensure that I hit the target and receive our funding?
Clearly EVIP is needed. Without the new vision from the state as it relates to transparency, cooperation and managing benefits, local government could never have conceived of such innovations. The hundreds of examples of cooperation and consolidation that already existed before EVIP should not be interpreted as working together or creating efficiency. The countless ways that locals shared information previously doesn’t mean that we are being transparent. And if we aren’t following a one size fits all approach to benefit design, then we must not be managing our benefits.
Fortunately, that has all been figured out for us. We now have a target to hit, and we will it it every time.