Governor Launches Anti-waste Panel

By: Brendan Riley AP
By: Brendan Riley AP

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - An effort to reduce government waste
was launched Wednesday by Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons - who may have to run state government in the next two-year budget cycle on a
spending plan that won't grow beyond the current $6.8 billion
budget.

Gibbons announced formation of the Spending and Government Efficiency, or SAGE, Commission, a panel modeled after former President Reagan's Grace Commission that in 1984 produced nearly
2,500 ideas for cutting government waste - but saw disappointing
results.

The Republican governor named Bruce James, credited with turning
around the federal Printing Office which he ran from 2002 to 2007, to the new state commission. Gibbons will name five other members and ask state lawmakers to name another six members.

"The more we can save by implementing operating efficiencies, the better we can meet the needs of our state with the resources we have," Gibbons stated.

The panel will work closely with state agency leaders who started preliminary meetings this week with Budget Director Andrew Clinger on the spending plan that Gibbons will submit to lawmakers early next year.

The current $6.8 billion budget covers state spending through mid-2009. The one being prepared by Clinger and agency directors will cover the next two-year period running through mid-2011 - and may not have more dollars despite ever-increasing service demands caused by growth.

Agency spending plans are due at Clinger's office by Sept. 1, and that will be followed by back-and-forth discussions between the agencies and the governor's office until a final plan is ready for the 2009 Legislature.

The current budget has gone through big changes as a result of a
revenue shortfall projected to top $900 million by mid-2009. Gibbons ordered a 4.5 percent cut in budgets for most agencies in January. He and legislative leaders followed up in April with still more reductions.

While the reductions delayed many state building projects and some new programs, the plan avoided layoffs of state workers or cuts in operating budgets of government agencies, and preserved scheduled pay raises for state employees and teachers.

The goal of the newly formed SAGE Commission is to come up with
moneysaving ideas that will work rather than wind up in a long report "that sits on a shelf and collects dust," Gibbons said.

Reagan's Grace Commission, headed by prominent businessman J.
Peter Grace Jr., spent two years on producing its 2,478 recommendations in its "war on waste." But a Congressional Research Service study described the report as "disappointing to its promoters."

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, warned that some of the commission's proposals could be challenged in the courts if implemented in the private sector. The GAO also said the commission overstated savings in some cases.

The commission's goal was $1.9 trillion in savings by 2000. That never occurred, although supporters of the effort have said it helped save taxpayers $687 billion over the years.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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