Proposed panel could keep Delaware spending growth in check

As state government continues to grapple with meeting its budgetary obligations, I maintain that the governor, state legislators, and other Delaware officials needed to take an honest, thorough look at state spending.

To that end, I recently introduced House Joint Resolution 3. The measure seeks to create the Delaware Efficiency and Cost Containment Committee.

The 11-member bipartisan panel of state officials would be charged with gathering, investigating, and recommending actions to the General Assembly for improving governmental effectiveness and restraining budget growth.

The measure specifically asks the group to consider four cost-cutting ideas:

•Investigate replacing defined-benefit pensions with defined-contribution plans for new state employees, where feasible.

Rep. Lyndon Yearick

Rep. Lyndon Yearick

•Investigate establishing a centralized procurement program for the state’s public schools.

•Investigate and analyze state purchasing protocols, looking for ways to increase value and better benefit from economies of scale.

•Investigate establishing an efficiency rewards program, under which state employees or private citizens could suggest cost-cutting measures that, if successfully implemented, would pay a financial award to the person originating the idea.

The DECCC would also be required to hold at least one special hearing to gather public input on improving governmental efficiency.

The legislation gives the committee direction, but it also allows it to strike off on its own to investigate concepts it uncovers during its work.

The intention is to establish a group that will engage in a deliberative process and deliver a list of well-crafted “actionable recommendations” to all state legislators and the governor by March 15, 2016.

Gov. Jack Markell issued Executive Order 47 in January, creating a special committee to examine how Delaware can restructure its revenue sources to better match economic activity and keep pace with rising costs. That committee is expected to unveil its findings this month. My proposal balances the equation by forming an equally impressive group to explore state spending.

Thus far, 11 legislators have signed the measure as sponsors or co-sponsors. All of these lawmakers are Republicans. That is as surprising as it is disappointing.

The committee would include balanced, bipartisan participation: four members of the legislature — one from each political caucus — and representatives of the governor, state treasurer, state attorney general, state auditor, state controller general, and the Office of Management and Budget.

There is nothing about this proposal that should make it a political issue. The color of importance should not be blue or red, but green.

Even with the braking action of the recession, state spending has still increased by $1.2 billion over the last decade — an increase of 46 percent.

The proposed state budget stands at $3.9 billion. It seems likely that in such a massive spending plan, there are some opportunities to reduce waste and improve efficiency. Even if the committee’s work results in a relatively modest 1-percent cost reduction, we will still have saved $39 million.

This legislation is written on paper, not chiseled in stone. I am open to any suggestions to improve it or address legitimate concerns.
House Joint Resolution 3 is currently sequestered in the Democrat-controlled House Administration Committee and will not be heard prior to June.

With millions of dollars in potential savings hanging in the balance, there is no reason not to engage in this prudent process. It is time to foster a debate on public expenditures and launch a bipartisan probe of state spending.

State Rep. Lyndon Yearick
R-District 34 (Camden, Woodside, Wyoming and surrounding unincorporated areas)
Magnolia

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