Gov. Perdue will streamline state government by reducing departments, culling boards
Moving to get ahead of cost-cutting Republicans, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue announced a restructuring of state government Thursday that will represent what her office called, “the most significant change to North Carolina government in 30 years.”
In a speech to the Moore County and other regional Chambers of Commerce in Pinehurst, Perdue outlined a plan that will consolidate some state agencies and privatize some functions.
Perdue also called for a hiring freeze on “non-critical positions” and a review of more than 400 state boards and commissions to see if some can be eliminated.
“State government must seize this opportunity to become a more streamlined, focused enterprise,” she said. “We must be leaner, more nimble, more responsive to citizens and less bureaucratic as we focus our limited resources on our core missions.”
Efforts to reach the incoming Republican leaders of the House and Senate were unsuccessful, but Republicans have promised to push for a leaner and more efficient state government.
Chris Fitzsimon of the NC Justice Center, a progressive advocacy and research organization, said the governor’s plan could be helpful, but he did not see it as historic.
“I’m not sure it’s ‘sweeping,’” he said. “I think some of the things she’s suggesting make sense.”
Fitzsimon noted that governor didn’t address how the state will meet its peoples’ needs in tough economic times.
“I wish she had said we’re going to use these savings to fund human services. We don’t need just well organized government. We need adequately funded government,” he said.
John Hood, president of the John Locke Fondation, a conservative think tank in Raleigh, responded favorably to the proposal. “The parts that I saw, I liked,” he said.
Hood approved of the consolidation of some agencies into others, but he questioned how much effect it may have on eliminating a state budget deficit projected to be $3.5 billion.
“Those all seem to be wise moves that have precedent in other states,” he said. “How much savings you’ll derive from that, I haven’t seen any numbers. We should not think that administrative reorganization is going to get us to a balanced budget, but all savings are welcome.”
The key elements of of the governor’s plan are:
Step 1: Consolidate, and Privatize
· The departments of Juvenile Justice, Correction and Crime Control and Public Safety will merge into one Department of Public Safety.
· The Department of Commerce will take in the Employment Security Commission, and together they will strengthen their focus on stabilizing the economy, growing jobs and preparing the workforce.
· The Department of Administration will be renamed and refocused – the new Department of Management and Administration will become the chief operations unit for state government, and will take in ITS, the Office of State Personnel and the Controller’s Office.
· In moving ITS, up to 100 computer service units will be closed and a private company will contract with the state to consolidate IT services into a centralized location, saving money and providing better service.
· The purchasing functions currently scattered throughout state government will be consolidated and privatized to find savings through bulk purchasing and coordinated bid requests.
· These changes alone will save tens of millions of dollars, and will result in leaner personnel rosters.
Step 2: Eliminate
As a result of the structural consolidation, Perdue’s plan includes eliminating “back office functions.” These include such functions as human resources, purchasing, training and administration. Specifics about these cuts, including the dollars saved, will be detailed in the governor’s budget.
Step 3: Freeze
Gov. Perdue called for a hiring freeze of non-critical positions in all of her cabinet agencies and asked Council of State and other agencies to do the same.
Step 4: Review Boards and Commissions
Perdue also pledged to present the General Assembly with a list of 150 boards and commissions, with the request that they review them and only sign off on those that are justifiably needed. More than 400 boards and commissions exist, with over 4,000 appointees, and more than half of those receive support from state-funded agencies