A few days ago, a state agency head appeared before one of our House Appropriations Committees. He described his agency’s efforts to cut cost: “We are saving $24,000 per year because we have moved some of our offices to a less expensive building.”
Last week, a second government official came before the same committee and reminded us that during the last budget downturn, his agency had relocated his agency’s employees from three offices into a single office. Not only had this agency experienced the savings from his action, but he described the secondary benefit of “increased synergies” as agency employees are now working with each other instead of compartmentalized within separate “agencies within agencies.”
These presentations reminded me of a similar hearing which was given by the Department of Commerce during the last budget downturn. The Department testified to thousands in savings because they had given up their access to a conference room.
Though I was happy to hear about these savings, I was rather struck by the fact that for several years, the Oklahoma taxpayer had been saddled with the cost of the Department’s multi-thousand dollar meeting room.
I also realized that it is in the down years when state agencies become willing to give up extravagances. During the last downturn, however, the expulsion of the inefficiencies was blunted by the presence of federal stimulus monies. The federal money not only kept inefficiencies in place, but mortgaged the future of our children and grandchildren through an increase in massive federal debt.
As such, there is still a plethora of opportunities for savings. For example, consider the instance of the state agency which inexplicably continues to lease a second suite of office spaces even though there is more than enough room in the primary office in which they are currently located. The agency remains greatly weighted down by interagency turf wars. Divisions of the agency refuse to co-locate and zealously guard their independence from each other. At least one or two divisions of this agency have purview over so much unnecessary space that they actually appear to maintain an office ratio of more than two offices for every one employee.
It’s the budget downturn that increases the likelihood of ending these types of shocking abuses of your taxpayer dollar.
In the upcoming weeks and months, as you continue to hear of the travails of the state budget, please know there are positive outcomes when state government has less money to spend. Agencies will be forced to make “difficult” choices which they would never have made, absent a downturn.
Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.