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Commission's suggestions would save taxpayers millions

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Aug. 19, 2010 at 3:58 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Even after slicing $700 million from the state budget over the last few years, a special commission says it's found a way to save taxpayers millions more. The details were released Thursday by an efficiency commission appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert.


"We really do need to look for efficiencies and see if we can, in fact, do more with less." Gov. Gary Herbert

From one governor to another: Thursday morning, Norm Bangerter handed Herbert the report on Optimizing State Government. Inside are 56 recommendations that, if implemented, would save tax payers about $10 million a year.

"We really do need to look for efficiencies and see if we can, in fact, do more with less," Herbert said.

It was a diverse panel of business- and education-minded people who came up with the final report.

Among the things they suggest, driving efficiency by increasing oversight and finding ways to improve and increase accountability.

The group also suggests reducing state workers' benefits packages but increasing their salary. Already this year, lawmakers passed a bill changing the state pension system. It's a first step.

"By getting control of our benefits costs, we can then start to systematically repair wages over the next few years -- which we fully anticipate we will do," said Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful.

In education, the commission recommends expanding online courses, textbooks and guidance counseling.

There is also a focus on managing the prison population in the vast institution, which is as large as a city. Privatization is one idea.

"If there are areas of that city where we can maximize, do it at a lower cost, then we ought to do that," said Tom Patterson, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections.

The state is also interested in combating fraud and waste, tracking it through audits. That's especially important when it comes to big, expensive programs like Medicaid.

Other suggestions include stopping the reminders to renew your vehicle registration that come in the mail. Also, fewer "on sale" offers on alcohol at state liquor stores might save the state money.

These are only suggestions right now, and they dig deep. After all, the easy cuts have already been done.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

Richard Piatt

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