In real estate the mantra is, “location, location, location.”” So it goes for the state’s agency leasing program.
But when it comes to the Department of Administration, the government’s leasing agent, location is most often Madison, Madison, Madison.
A bill authored by state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, and Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, aims to change that singular point of view. The measure would require the DOA to identify the “most appropriate and cost efficient locations to place an agency when securing or renewing a lease.”
Leasing agents would have to consider situating a state agency where it provides the most services, and identify multiple locations – at least two of which are outside Dane County.
“When considering leases to house state agency headquarters, the Department of Administration (DOA) currently restricts eligible property locations to a limited geographical area,” Sanfelippo wrote in a legislative memo. “This practice has created an artificial market for commercial real estate which is inflating the cost of lease rates and resulting in taxpayers paying unnecessarily high prices.”
DOA’s general policy, Sanfelippo said, is that the state agencies have to be located in Dane County, and primarily in the county seat and state capital, Madison. “You see these buildings all right there around the Capitol, for the most part,” the lawmaker said in an interview Tuesday with Wisconsin Watchdog. “These landlords know (about the DOA policy) and they screw us 10 times from Sunday when it comes to these leases.”
DOA spokesman Steve Michels said the agency is happy to look at any proposal that might save money and improve its services. “We are aligned in our shared goal to deliver value to the taxpayers through a more efficient government,” he said.
The argument has long been that Madison is the seat of state government. The infrastructure is there and that’s where state government operations should remain. There is no bigger advocate of that position than the city of Madison, a ready benefactor of state centralization.
Keeping state agencies together in the same city or geographical area makes it much easier for departments to interact with the executive and the Legislature, proponents say. Sanfelippo says those arguments no longer apply, particularly in the Digital Age.
“The vast majority of employees that work in these agencies do not interact on a daily basis with the Legislature, and most of the secretaries don’t. That pretty much goes out the window,” the legislator said. “In 1848, when we became a state, maybe that made sense back then, with communications and transportation primitive at the time. In 2017, you don’t have to be in one place. It doesn’t make sense anymore.”
It’s also not fair to citizens who live hours away from Madison, the bill’s authors assert. Some government services arguably are much better suited for other locations around the state.