The Jindal administration is two-thirds of the way toward achieving the savings called for in the state’s $25 billion budget for the current fiscal year, officials told a legislative committee Monday.
Of the $75.6 million in savings required to keep this year’s budget balanced, the Division of Administration has come up with $50.17 million. The budget year ends June 30.
The administration advised the state Senate Finance Committee that it anticipates generating $81.6 million — $6 million more than required — from the plan.
The committee got a sampling of where the savings are being generated, but many members continued to press for details on the limited general information provided.
Savings ranged from $184,000 from elimination of unnecessary toll-free numbers to $6.5 million in savings from programs in which offenders can shorten their sentences, thus reducing incarceration, by participating in work training, community and education programs.
Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Donahue pushed for specifics, upset that big savings numbers were being thrown out without the committee knowing what was behind them. “Did you not understand we were looking for specific information?” Donahue asked Ruth Johnson, the deputy commissioner of the Division of Administration.
Johnson said the specifics were available. But the panel had not been provided all of the backup data, which disturbed Donahue and some other panel members.
Donahue, R-Mandeville, briefly suspended the meeting until the information could be provided and told individual state agency officials to provide details as they talked about savings in their departments.
The plan includes reorganizing management structures across agencies, lowering insurance coverage on state-owned ferries and barges and eliminating about 390 toll-free phone numbers.
Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas said the agency has sold property generating $416,179 in revenues and has identified other property that could provide another $2 million. Two of the properties are located in Harvey and on Lakeshore Drive in New Orleans, LeBas said. DOTD employees who work at those locations will be relocated, she said.
The savings ideas came from suggestions by private consultants Alvarez & Marsal, of New York City.
The committee also got an update on administration progress toward meeting goals contained in the Alvarez & Marsal Governmental Efficiencies Management Support report, which was released in June. The overall report identifies more than $2.7 billion savings or revenue-generating ideas that the state will implement over the next five years across all areas of operations. The Jindal administration has paid the firm some $7 million for its input.
Ideas for savings include maximizing federal funding, selling off state property, improving internal performance, preventing fraud and abuse, and more effective management of contracts.
About $1 billion of the savings is expected to come from the state Office of Group Benefits, which provides insurance to some 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents.
Changes are underway, including increased premiums and shifting more out-of-pocket expenses to plan members.
The Alvarez & Marsal report outlined more than $302 million in total savings and efficiencies for the current fiscal year. The state budget requires a $75.6 million savings related to implementing some of the report recommendations. The $302 million also includes funds collected by the state Department of Revenue in delinquent taxpayer programs and the revamp at Group Benefits. As of Dec. 8, total savings and efficiencies recognized in the current fiscal year was $182 million.