Legislature wants $100,000 consultant to find $30 million in savings

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(Host) State government faces another year of declining revenues and almost-certain budget cuts.

So the Legislature is looking for $30 million in efficiencies throughout government.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, legislative leaders want to spend $100,000 looking for those savings.

(Sneyd) Earlier this month, economists gave budget officials the bad news. The decline hasn’t stopped and is only going to get worse.

So the official estimate for how much the state will collect in taxes and fees for the current budget year were lowered by $28 million and by $23 million for next year.

House Speaker Shap Smith says that’s why the Legislature created the Joint Legislative Government Accountability Committee.

(Smith) "We know that we’re at a transition point for state government. And so the purpose of the committee is really to figure out ways that we can deliver the services that Vermonters need in a more effective and efficient way."

(Sneyd) The committee is looking for better, cheaper and more innovative ways to do the work of state government.

And it wants to figure out how best to measure performance so the Legislature will know whether programs are accomplishing their goals.

Now, the committee is advertising for a consultant that can help it do its job. The job will pay up to $100,000 between now and the end of the year.

Speaker Smith says a $30 million return for a $100,000 investment makes good economic sense.

(Smith) "Legislators are part-time and we have certain expertise. But we think that it makes sense to bring in experts who’ve looked at state governments around the country and have been able to recommend things that have paid off for those state governments."

(Sneyd) Administration Secretary Neale Lunderville says the state needs to find some way to save money.

(Lunderville) "The Legislature made a decision to appropriate themselves that money. The administration’s taken a different tact with some teams that we have looking for efficiencies in state government now. Ultimately we have to find a way to balance a budget deficit over the next few years. We’re looking at quarter billion dollars in shortfall."

(Sneyd) Legislative leaders say Iowa and Washington are among states that have successfully used an approach similar to their own. They’re hopeful that Vermont can emulate their success.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

(Host) Friday is the deadline for consultants to submit a proposal. The committee plans to hire one in August and the work begins on September first.

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