by Max Brantley
Remember the news — first highlighted by Jason Pederson at KATV — that Westerman had greased a $220,000 contract for a Rhode Island consultant, Gary Alexander to study Arkansas welfare programs? Pretty good pay for work over a four-month period (but not for four months of solid work — he did visit here, though).
Alexander was an interesting choice. He was controversial as Pennsylvania welfare commissioner, both for unpopular policies and for setting up a private business on the side while working for the state government.
Alexander's past work — compiled here by critics — could give you an idea of what he might have in mind. Pennsylvania Medicaid rolls grew even as he promised to root out "waste and fraud." His idea of rooting out waste and fraud was, among others, to impose asset tests for aged and disabled people to qualify for food stamps. He also cut thousands of children off medical assistance programs. You can see where he might appeal to Westerman, sufficiently committed to reduction of government that he wouldn't join the Republican majority that voted to participate in the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid in Arkansas.
But back to Alexander and Arkansas.
Marty Garrity, director of the Bureau of Legislative Research, informs me that Alexander HAS completed a report for the $220,000 he was paid. He submitted it July 5. It's substantial, maybe 75 to 100 pages, she said.
It remains secret. It is classified as a legislative "working paper" until a committee of the Legislative Council reviews it. Alexander is expected to appear to talk about it when and if that day occurs. It's currently in the hands of the executive committee of the council, co-chaired by Sen. Paul Bookout and Rep. John Edwards. I've been unable to get an indication so far of plans for release.
UPDATE: Westerman commented on Twitter:
1) Alexander spent weeks in LR. Had team working on report. I would like to see it released too.
2) As much as I wouldn't mind taking credit for content of report, it's not "my" report, @ArkansasBlog. It was approved by #Arleg ALC.
Yes, it had Legislative Council approval. But such proposals don't arise in a vacuum. Westerman is considered the driving force behind the selection and hiring of Alexander.