CHEYENNE — In the 2017 legislative session Gov. Matt Mead used his line item veto power to soften some drastic cuts the lawmakers wanted.

They wanted them so badly that the legislators voted to override Mead’s vetoes.

Thus thwarted, governor went ahead with the position freezes last April.

Now that the revenues have perked up the governor is asking the Legislature to back off its plan to eliminate an additional 90 full time positions.

A new government spending and efficiency study sided with the governor on some cuts.

The reduction in the number of state employees has resulted in the loss of staffing for key revenue generating positions in the audit and revenue agencies.

Replacing those key staff members should be a priority for the coming legislative budget session, said the report by the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, Alvarez and Marshal.

It never made much sense to cut the revenue and audit departments, yet previous governors and Legislatures have also done just that through the across-the-board percentage cuts.

The idea was to make the suffering equal across all segments of government, regardless of the wisdom of the cuts.

The $300,000 consultants’ study contains tons of information that was compiled within the short time frame of three months.

As I was writing that sentence, I could hear in my head the mutterings of the agency heads who had to hustle to provide the consultants with the information contained in the report.

The A and M consultants estimate it will cost Between $12 and $17 million to put into effect its recommended efficiency and modernization initiatives.

They suggest that an investment of $13 million could yield $112 million in savings. Or an investment of $18 million could yield $228 million in savings. Sounds good.

Some recommendations in the massive report provoked that old deja vu feeling, in particular the finding that each agency continues to maintain administrative functions that overlap with centralized services including, human resources, finance, IT and procurement.

I thought the overlap was solved years ago with the centralization of these functions through creation of the Department of Administration and Fiscal Control which later evolved in the Department of Administration and Information.

Most of the interaction with the central procurement division is for compliance rather than process support, the report said.

“The state does not provide ready access to data for the procurement staff to conduct meaningful analysis of expenditures or procurement practices. System integrity issues create the arms length access to data.”

What I think this batch of governmentese prose means is that the agencies are not seeking or not getting advice on how to get better prices on volume purchases, and the procurement staff needs faster access to information that could save the state money with purchases. The agencies still are in their silos.

And then there is the recommendation for a bonus system for state employees who come up with ideas to save the state money either by themselves or part of a team.

This has saved huge amounts of money in other states, the consultants said.

Wyoming has had programs like that in the past.

The state’s efforts, however, never held the grand title recommended by the consultants —“The Governor’s Annual Ideas Festival.”

The report identified Wyoming’s cultural bias against all things federal, a historical stance that results in over-reliance on state money.

The report cited numerous examples of agencies bypassing federal funds.

Wyoming is the only state that does not seek reimbursement for Medicaid funds for school districts. Participation in federal child nutrition programs is well below benchmarks and numerous schools have dropped out of the programs, the report said.

There are other interesting tidbits of information in the report. For example, crafty agency heads, expecting a hiring freeze of vacant positions, tried to fill them before the deadline.

The freeze went into effect on April 30, 2017. By then there were only 3 vacant positions, a decrease from 96 counted a month earlier.

The entire study actually prompts that deja vu feeling because it was preceded by so many similar efforts that had less than stunning results.

Maybe this time...

Phase two of the study is up next.

Contact Joan Barron at 307-632-2534 or jmbarron@bresnan.net.

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