The Return of Zero Based Budgeting

| Fri Jun. 11, 2010 11:55 AM EDT

Stan Collender says that, like the shark from Jaws, Zero Based Budgeting is back. By itself, that would be boring. But he adds this interesting twist:

Georgia Republican Governor Sonny Perdue is being heavily criticized by Tea Partiers for vetoing a bill this week that would have imposed zero based budgeting in his state. Perdue's reasoning was that ZBB didn't work the last time it was tried in the state — when Democratic Governor Jimmy Carter proposed it....Doesn't this show how much GOP politics have changed? Perdue's primary reason for vetoing ZBB — that it's a failed Democratic idea — would have been more than sufficient before.

I dunno. I guess they've forgotten about Jimmy. Or something. But frankly, this fits perfectly into the tea party worldview because it's (a) simplistic and superficially appealing, and (b) stupid. The reason ZBB doesn't work is simple human nature: if you ask a department head to justify her entire budget from scratch, she'll run around manically the first year putting together a gigantic document that does just that. Much time will be spent, actual work will be sacrificed, and believe you me, the budget will be justified. And the next year? No problem. Just pull out last year's doorstop, edit a few things here and there, and drop it on your superior's desk. Done.

It's a dumb idea. Perdue is right to leave it on the ash heap of history where it belongs.