A commission set up to suggest ways for state government to save money wrapped up its work Tuesday.
The Commission on Streamlining Government made 238 recommendations. By the commission’s tally, 62 were carried out and 105 are in the process of being implemented.
The commission is touting more than $780 million in savings to the state from its recommendations. Among the proposals put into play:
• Reducing the number of state-owned vehicles.
• Hiring a safety consulting firm to prevent work-related accidents.
• Revamping the way the Medicaid health-care program for the poor is managed.
• Outsourcing physician services at the state’s war veterans homes.
• Increasing the number of employees each supervisor oversees at the state Department of Children and Family Services.
Another 62 recommendations have not been acted upon. Nine other suggestions are under review by state agencies.
For instance, no action was taken on a recommendation that affordable housing or housing assistance recipients be forced to get a job if they are not elderly or disabled.
Legislators rejected a bill to abolish special funds that divert money from health care and other areas of the state’s operating budget.
The idea of outsourcing the state’s 24-hour hazardous materials hotline was deemed too costly.
“Frankly, I hate to see this sunset,” state Treasurer John Kennedy said. “It’s sun-setting in part because it made some people uncomfortable.”
The commission began its work as the state started grappling with huge financial shortfalls. Gov. Bobby Jindal asked the panel of state officials, business leaders, legislators and policy experts to identify ways to trim $800 million in expenses. The panel officially sunsets — or ends — in two months. But members held their last meeting Tuesday before the start of the holidays to review progress on their recommendations.
Some of the ideas met with resistance.
The residents of Melville protested a recommendation to close the town’s longtime ferry. Citing the $720,500 annual cost of providing the service, the Jindal administration shut down the ferry last year.
The commission also advocated reducing agencies’ workforces. Ina Laborde, a representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told the commission that people now are struggling from the loss of their jobs.
“Just because we have 9,000 less positions, doesn’t mean we have 9,000 less people,” Laborde said.
She also questioned the soundness of replacing security guards in towers with cameras at the state’s prisons.
“Cameras do not stop criminals,” Laborde said.
Kennedy said hard choices had to be made despite the difficulty in laying off people or not filling a vacancy.
“We just can’t afford to be an employment agency,” he said, referring to state government.
Patrice Thomas, a fiscal analyst for the Legislative Fiscal Office, said the state Department of Children and Family Services once averaged one supervisor per five employees.
The streamlining commission recommended that the ratio be changed to one supervisor per eight employees. Thomas said the agency achieved the new ratio in all areas except the child welfare division. She said 197 positions were eliminated, 146 of them supervisory.