The Commission on Streamlining Government approved more than two dozen initial recommendations this week and so far they total a potential savings to state government of well over $200 million.

Now, we recognize that not all of those recommendations or the ones coming in the weeks ahead are likely to be implemented by the governor or the Legislature. People don’t always agree on everything and that’s just the nature of things.

But as a member of the Commission, the important point about these recommendations is that they reflect a great deal of thought and research that has been put into the mandate to streamline state government and that has generated a lot of interesting ideas. It’s also worth noting that many of those ideas have come from state agencies themselves who have been charged with a high level of self-analysis and review as part of a broad effort to save taxpayers’ money.

The initial recommendations deal with a variety of things – reducing the number of state vehicles, removing layers of management and exploring the privatization or outsourcing of various state government activities, to name a few. CABL serves as a member of the commission and it is fair to say there is much more to come. Many of the ideas will be controversial, but many will also suggest things that might seem like an oxymoron. They save the state money, but they also improve the delivery of state services.

How does that happen? In some cases by creating efficiencies through the use of technology. In other cases by consolidating similar services housed in different agencies and removing administrative costs. And in others, moving away from costly institution-based services for people and providing them in a better and more cost-effective setting.

None of this is to say this streamlining process is a lot easier than everyone expected, or that there’s a magic box of things we can pull out and make all of our budget issues go away. That’s not the case and many hard decisions await both the Legislature and the governor. But difficult economic times often force people and businesses and governments to think radically differently. That is when new ideas emerge and things that were hard to do in good times somehow become a little easier and a lot more urgent.

We don’t believe the Commission on Streamlining Government is any type of panacea for solving all of our budget woes. And many of the ideas being proposed will still need more scrutiny, review and consideration by other decision makers. But we do believe this effort will yield a pretty hefty tool box of suggestions that can make the future rounds of state budget cuts less onerous and minimize, to some degree, their impact on people who rely on state services. They might also change the structure of state government in some positive ways that may not be felt immediately, but could make things more efficient and effective for the future.

 


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