Herbert creates commission to look for government inefficiencies

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The state budget is under intense scrutiny these days, and more cuts are coming, but Gov. Herbert wants a special commission to look for something else: inefficiency.

If any group is qualified to look for government waste, it's this one. The Utah Advisory Commission to Optimize State Government is chaired by former governor Norm Bangerter. Ex-speaker of the House Nolan Karras is in a leadership role, as is former Olympic CEO Frasier Bullock.

There are also business people, community activists, and expert budgeters. All are being called to look for inefficiency.

"This is not designed to be a slash-and-burn and a cut-through-the-bone advisory group. This is simply something that ought to be done," Gov. Herbert said.

It's in the face of hard times. With a $700 million hole in the state budget, the hunt is on for things to cut. The job won't be easy. State lawmakers have been trimming things down for a couple years now. Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones says good luck.

"We've already cut education significantly, both public and higher education. So what else is there to cut except jobs and services?" he said.

Members of the commission say there won't be cutting just to cut. And the governor denies he's looking for an excuse to raise taxes. Former Gov. Bangerter said it's more like taking the car in for a checkup. "Open the hood, kick the tires, and see if there is anything we can do to help us do an even better job than we have in the past," he said.

There aren't any preconceived targets for cuts, either, the group says. But Gov. Herbert says hard decisions will be made.

"This is really here to find efficiencies, make sure government is effective, and look to see if we can't optimize government services," he said.

Final recommendations will be submitted in fall 2010, although it will make budgetary recommendations in the next three months.

Herbert has said he doesn't want to raise taxes, but he hasn't committed to vetoing a budget that includes increases.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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