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Can “Government Reform” Save Money for WA?

February 10, 2009

Olympia, WA – The words 'streamlining' and 'government' don't usually go together, but Governor Chris Gregoire says there are plenty of ways the state can save money as it does business. On Monday, she announced a push for "government reform," citing savings of $15 million over two years by consolidating agencies, eliminating 154 of the state’s 470 boards and commissions, and offering more services online.

David Rolf, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 775, is on a committee that spent the past two months sifting through the ideas and discussing what government should –- and shouldn't -– be.

"Are these 150 boards and commissions actually accomplishing the delivery of services to citizens? And if not, with all due respect to the people who work on them, is that an appropriate use of government resources, in a time of scarcity?"

Rolf says the committee looked at many ideas sent in by citizens. Critics of the plan say it could eliminate some watchdog functions over state agencies and, in the long run, might not save enough money to justify the changes. Gregoire calls the recession "serious enough to forever change" all employers, not just state government.

Tim Welch, spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees, says his union agrees with the effort, and is not convinced the plan will mean major job cuts for state workers.

"Even though the economy is bad, the demand for services is only increasing. So, if we can get at some of these administrative costs, there'll be more resources for quality services and for the staff to provide them."

The Federation has a lawsuit pending against the governor for not including money for a pay raise in her new budget, when they had already agreed on it in contract negotiations. A ruling in that case is expected this week.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA