Posts Tagged ‘efficiencies’

Lawmakers Consider Bill To Improve Efficiency And Transparency Of Government Contracting

By Sean Whaley | 5:49 pm March 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Senate majority leader today advanced a bill intended to make state and local government contracts more efficient and transparent to benefit both taxpayers and consumers was reviewed by a legislative subcommittee on Friday.

Among other provisions, Senate Bill 359 would require government contracts to be put out to bid rather than rolled over year after year to the same contractor. It would require all fees charged to the public in government contracts to be disclosed by the contractor. It would also require an annual report to the state on sole source contracting by agencies, which would then be provided to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee.

State agencies and local governments would have to report this information to the state Purchasing Division, which would compile the data and forward it to lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the measure could result in savings to state and local governments because contracts would be subjected to competition.

“This is a bill that goes to the heart of one of the things that we’ve been trying to accomplish this entire session: good government and government efficiency,” he said. “As we address the critical need for new revenue to support education and vital social services in this state, we also must face head-on the question of whether government is delivering services as efficiently as possible.

“Every dollar we save through efficiency measures is a dollar in new revenue we don’t have to raise,” Horsford said.

In a hearing earlier this session, Horsford expressed concern that recipients of jobless benefits and temporary assistance grants are being charged banking fees to withdraw funds from these government funded programs.

Evidence was also presented of sole-source contracts renewed year after year with no competitive bidding, he said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, a primary sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would also ensure fairness and opportunity for Nevadans seeking to provide contract services to the state and local governments.

A number of other lawmakers spoke in support of the legislation, as did speakers in both Las Vegas and Carson City.

A section of the bill that received a lot of favorable testimony would require more reporting regarding race, ethnicity and gender on public works projects let to bid by the state and local governments. The information would be made public and reported to the Legislature.

Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, said the data collection required in the bill could provide a foundation to establish contracting opportunities for minorities and women. Neal is pursuing a related measure that was heard today the Government Affairs Committee.

Audio clips:

Sen. Steven Horsford says the bill goes to the heart of good government and government efficiency:

032511Horsford1 :10 and government efficiency.”

Horsford says every dollar saved is a dollar in new revenue that does not have to be raised:

032511Horsford2 :21 have to raise.”

Horsford says the bill is about saving taxpayer dollars, but also about consumer protections:

032511Horsford3 :15 they are charged.”

Shifting Costs To Local Government, Elimination Of Waste, Could Be Part Of Sandoval Budget Plan

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm January 4th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A close adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval says there are alternatives to balancing the state budget besides cutting programs or raising fees and taxes, and he identified some possibilities that could find their way into the proposed spending plan to be released later this month.

Pete Ernaut, who helped Sandoval win the governor’s office in the Nov. 2 general election, said in an interview Monday on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face television program that some cost shifting to local governments is one option available to help balance the state general fund budget.

He said the budget, which Sandoval has said will not include new taxes or fees, will be a “shared sacrifice.”

One potential cost shift is child welfare, Ernaut said.

The state has been transitioning child welfare to Clark and Washoe counties, but the state is still paying the bill, he said. The costs for child welfare have nearly doubled from 2001 to date while the caseloads have remained flat, he said. This is due primarily to higher labor costs at the county level, where there is collective bargaining, than at the state level.

Ernaut also said there is a precedent in 30 other states where there is a local funding mechanism to assist in paying for the cost of higher education. Nevada’s higher education system is funded primarily by the state general fund.

Ernaut also estimated there is as much as $500 million or more wasted in the state budget on duplicate programs.

“We spend so much money in duplicate areas because there are pet projects that do virtually the same thing,” he said. “You know and I know, people are not being truthful . . . , with how much there is in ways of savings and efficiencies.

“I’ll bet you right now, that if you just went through it with a businessman’s mentality, of just taking away the duplication and waste, there is a good $500 million or $600 million that we just throw away,” Ernaut said.

That amount of money would be a boon to the public education system, he said.

“Don’t confuse raising taxes with raising revenue,” he said.

Ernaut said he does not know what level of potential savings may be part of Sandoval’s budget.

Heidi Gansert, Sandoval’s chief of staff, said Monday the governor’s budget remains a work in progress.

Details will emerge when Sandoval delivers his state-of-the-state address on Jan. 24.

But Sandoval only has about $5.3 billion to spend, well below current funding levels due to expiring tax increases and the loss of federal stimulus funds that won’t be available in the next budget.

Ernaut is a former chief of staff to the late Gov. Kenny Guinn, and also served in the state Assembly. He is currently president of public affairs with R&R Partners.

Audio clips:

Pete Ernaut, adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval, says there is duplication and waste in state government:

010411Ernaut1 :18 savings and efficiencies.”

Ernaut says there could be $500 million in savings from improved efficiencies:

010411Ernaut2 :19 of a difference.”

Ernaut says don’t confuse raising taxes with raising revenue:

010411Ernaut3 :14 taking things back.”

Rory Reid Calls for Reform and Consolidation to Balance State Budget

By Sean Whaley | 6:40 am August 11th, 2010

(Updated at 6:50 a.m. on Aug. 11, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Democrat gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid told the Nevada News Bureau yesterday there are other options for moving the state out of its current budget crisis besides increasing taxes and cutting programs.

In an interview at a local coffee shop, Reid pulled out two pieces of paper. One showed an organization chart for the state’s public education system from 1989. The other shows how it looks now.

The newer chart showed many more layers of government, including advisory panels, legislative committees and other bureaucratic creations that have evolved over the past 20 years.

Reid said the two charts demonstrate one way Nevada can save several hundred million dollars: by streamlining government services to eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies in state government.

Reid, who is trailing GOP candidate Brian Sandoval in the polls, said he has experience balancing budgets as chairman of the Clark County Commission, budgets that are as big as the Nevada general fund budget.

“I know how to do this,” he said. “I’ve balanced it in good times and in bad for seven years running without new taxes. There are more than two options. The third option nobody talks about is to remake our government.”

Clark County had multiple housing authorities at one time, but Reid said he worked to consolidate them into one agency. There used to be multiple public health agencies, now there is one.

Reid did not back off his no new taxes stance, saying the state unemployment rate, the foreclosure crisis, and the overall economic situation in Nevada makes the idea of expanding such levies a nonstarter.

“We need a leader in Carson City that knows how to reform government structures,” he said. “If we do what needs to be done, we will save hundreds of millions of dollars and still maintain services by reforming our government.”

Reid said he will be putting out a proposal in the next several days addressing this issue in more detail.

Reid said Sandoval is offering no realistic solutions, instead saying he will avoid layoffs, protect vulnerable citizens and government services and still balance the budget.

“That is impossible,” Reid said.

The Sandoval campaign offered this response: “As a two-term legislator, an attorney general who returned money to the general fund and as a private law practitioner, Brian is proud of his budget experience. It’s curious that just a few months ago Rory Reid refused to say how he might balance the state’s budget.  Now he’s attacking Brian – the only candidate to lay out how he would have approached balancing our state’s short term budget deficit without mass layoffs or new taxes.”

Reid weighed in on the state’s budget problems as state Budget Director Andrew Clinger has spoken in recent days of the severity of the impacts facing Nevada when the Legislature convenes in February.

Clinger said the state is facing an estimated $3 billion shortfall in the revenues needed to sustain state government for the next two years, or nearly 50 percent of what would be a $6.5 billion general fund budget.

On Monday Clinger said new taxes might be avoided if the state and counties worked together to more efficiently divvy up the delivery of government services and the revenues used to pay for them.

Even so, both Sandoval and Reid have steadfastly rejected any notion of raising taxes as a partial solution to the state’s budget problems.

In an interview today on the KRNV Channel 4 noon news, Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he would not reject out-of-hand the idea of new or increased taxes as one option to solving the state’s budget crisis.

“There is no question that we are facing a very severe problem, the largest shortfall in our history,” he said. “We did take money from counties last time, cities and counties, and there is a bottom to that well also.

“No one wants to advocate raising taxes, or new taxes,” Raggio said. “We will probably have to look at restoring the taxes that are going to sunset. But I don’t think anybody should take a blood oath that we’re not going to look at that.”

Raising taxes is a last resort, he said.

“But I wouldn’t take it off the table,” Raggio said.

The 2009 Legislature raised the sales tax and the modified business tax on the state’s largest employers as part of a solution to balancing the current budget. Those taxes will expire on June 30, 2011 unless they are extended by the Legislature.

Reid said there is one other way that Nevada can get out of its budget crisis, and that is “growing” out of it through economic development. There are $5 billion worth of energy projects getting close to construction that will generate construction jobs and tax revenues to the state, he said.

___

Audio clips:

Rory Reid says the state can save millions by remaking an outdated state government:

081010RoryReid1 :17 21st century economy.”

Reid says he has experience in reforming government structures:

081010RoryReid2 :15 reforming our government.”

Reid says Sandoval promising more than he can deliver:

081010RoryReid3 :23 that is impossible.”

Governor Cites Progress in Implementing SAGE Commission Recommendations but Many Proposals Still Await Action

By Sean Whaley | 2:54 pm May 5th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons is touting his successes in implementing recommendations from his SAGE Commission on ways to improve efficiencies and save money in state government, but many of the proposals remain in progress or will require action by the 2011 Legislature.

In a press release issued first by his office and then his campaign, Gibbons says eight of 44 recommendations from the panel of private business people he appointed in May 2008 have been fully implemented.

Another 19 are in progress or planned for implementation following the 2011 legislative session, assuming lawmakers are supportive of the proposals.

Gibbons praised the privately-funded commission, saying its work, “is invaluable to my staff as we continue to work on ways to make Nevada government smaller, smarter and more efficient. My daily goals are to get Nevadans back to work and to make government less burdensome on our economic recovery,” he said.

Gibbons is facing a tough re-election campaign, with two GOP opponents on the ballot in the June primary. Polls show him trailing former federal judge Brian Sandoval.

The 14-member bipartisan Spending and Government Efficiency Commission first met in June 2008, issuing reports and recommendations every 90 days. The final report of the panel was released in January.

Some of the recommendations already implemented or in progress will save millions of dollars, based on the commission’s analysis, although the actual savings may be different depending on when they are finalized.

They include:

-          Centralized billing for the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, with an estimated savings of $12 million by the Sage Commission. This was accomplished in the 2009 budget.

-          Setting staffing ratios at state run psychiatric facilities based on private sector and national norms. This too was accomplished in the 2009 budget with a SAGE savings estimate of $36 million.

-          Implementing managed care for the aged, blind and disabled populations being served by Medicaid in Clark and Washoe Counties, and expanding managed care to women and children in four rural counties, for an estimated savings of $36.5 million. This effort is in progress.

But many of the most sweeping proposals, including major changes to both the state employee health insurance plan and public employee retirement system, have yet to be accomplished. The proposals did not get support from a majority of lawmakers in the 2009 session.

A recommendation to close the Nevada State Prison at a savings of $19 million a year has also been rejected by lawmakers.

Lynn Hettrick, deputy chief of staff to Gibbons, said the closure remains on the table because of the $29 million cost to repair the outdated facility and because there are empty beds in other correctional facilities that could accommodate the approximately 700 inmates housed there.

The Gibbons release on the SAGE implementation process notes that it could be closed by executive order, bypassing the Legislature, if the state economy does not recover.

Bruce James, chairman of the panel and a former U.S. Public Printer, praised Gibbons for his ongoing efforts to implement the recommendations.

“He’s doing all he can to move forward,” he said. “We have to give him credit.”

James said some of the cost-saving and efficiency ideas may be better received in the 2011 session because of the serious budget shortfall facing lawmakers.

“Without question we’re going to be in tougher times next legislative session,” he said. “Everyone will be looking at ways to reduce expenditures without reducing citizen services. We want to make sure we do not diminish the quality of services.”

James said he has also heard the SAGE report mentioned by a number of candidates seeking legislative seats, another sign the report won’t gather dust on a shelf.

The report was the result of hundreds of hours of work by the panel members, and even more time from a small privately supported staff, he said. Hundreds of people testified before the commission and the final recommendations were carefully evaluated before being moved forward, he said.

All but two of the recommendations involving the state health insurance program received unanimous support from the commission, James said.

The SAGE Commission issued 90-day reports starting in the fall of 2008 but many of the recommendations did not get favorable attention in the 2009 legislative session.

James said he had hoped lawmakers in 2009 would have made more progress on the recommendations.

“I think the Legislature could have done a better job, but it is fair to say they probably didn’t understand a lot of the recommendations,” he said. “Perhaps the governor and the Sage Commission could have done a better job of engaging the Legislature.”

James said he would especially like to see more progress from the Legislature on the proposals for the public employee health insurance and retirement systems.

They include requiring state employees to pay more of the cost of their health care, similar to what is offered in the private sector. This change would save $322.7 million according to the SAGE Commission if it had been implemented on July 1, 2009.

While the 2009 Legislature did make a few changes to the retirement plan for new hires starting Jan. 1, 2010, James said more must be done to bring the public employee benefits into line with those offered in the private sector.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said many of the SAGE Commission recommendations will be under discussion in 2011 because they are ongoing issues of concern to lawmakers, whether it is the cost of state employee health care or ideas for reforming the public pension system.

While many of the issues likely will be under discussion, there are differing views on what should be done, she said.

Some SAGE recommendations, such as closing Nevada State Prison, were just not feasible, Leslie said. The actual savings were not as large as suggested, and the plan for relocating the inmates was not well thought out, she said.

“Some ideas sound good in theory but when we go to implement them another picture emerges,” Leslie said.

While the efforts of the SAGE Commission are welcome, the Legislature’s own Audit Division reviews all state programs and agencies on a rotating basis and in a methodical way that removes any element of politics from the process, she said.

This ongoing review process is likely to be a more valuable way to come up with ways to make state government more efficient, Leslie said.