Is Communication a Core Function?

by Dan Ward


I’m normally a fan of Florida TaxWatch, which does impressive work explaining complex tax and revenue issues.

But I’m scratching my head a little over its most recent report on the $11.7 million spent annually by state agencies on communications and legislative affairs.  Florida TaxWatch identifies 126 communications staffers and 71 legislative affairs employees and outlines their salaries and benefits, but makes no value judgments and offers no recommendations.

By my calculations, those employees make up about one-tenth of 1 percent of Florida’s nearly 130,000 state employees (according to payroll information provided by the Department of Management Services).

Are there too many workers employed in these positions?  Too few?  Are they paid too much?  Too little?  By avoiding such judgments while stating that a focus on “the core functions of government is paramount,” it leaves the impression that perhaps Florida TaxWatch believes these positions are not “core functions.” 

TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro appears to make a value judgment when he states “there is no excuse for government waste at any level at any time.”

So, is communications a core function or is it a waste?  Admittedly, I’m biased.  But I tend to think that state agencies have a responsibility to communicate with the people they serve and the people who pay their bills.  And, yes, it actually takes a fair bit of training and experience to know how to communicate effectively. 

Is it a core function to get information out to the public in the event of a hurricane?  To keep parents informed about the workings of the Department of Education?  To share details about the actions of the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Workforce Innovation, the Department of Legal Affairs, or any of the other 30+ state agencies?

What do you think?

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