A newly-created State Senate panel has begun its task of trying to streamline state government. The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee held its first in a series of public hearings as it analyzes a long list of state agencies, bureaus, commissions, and departments and determine which ones should be kept, consolidated, or eliminated. The panel heard from representatives of the the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission, Harrisburg-based
Budget and Policy Center, and the Mercatus Center which helps governments (such as Virginia and Louisiana most recently) establish a program for evaluating their state agencies, bureaus, commissions and departments.
Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna) says the committee wants to make recommendations to
the state legislature that will result in a more efficient and more cost-effective state government operation..."Finding out for instance if there are old commissions that may have out lived their utility; taking a very close look at really some streamlining and decisions we can make that might render state government a little bit more cost effective."
He says, however, the process must be thorough and not about making change for teh sake of change. "Sometimes our best intentions about being cost effective sometimes don't render the best results for the taxpayers, and sometime even have hidden costs if we're not careful about it could add up later. So we need to be very careful, very deliberative to take up this process of change in the most thoughtful manner we can."
Blake says the last thing he wants to do is make recommendations that have unintended consequences, such as shifting the cost of certain state services to local governments and local non-profit agencies. Streamlining state government, especially at a time when state
finances are tight is important, but he says eliminating or merging programs that affect Pennsylvania’s economy and job growth have to be looked at carefully, so that the state doesn’t end up curbing economic development.
Blake says it will be a long process.