Wyoming’s state government will begin to give itself a makeover this summer.
Two years after the government consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal released a broad study on streamlining state government, the Wyoming Legislature’s Government Efficiency Commission will now be moving forward with concrete steps to reform public spending based off of recommendations contained in a more than 250-page report the group released in January.
Many of Alvarez & Marsal’s recommendations are non-specific. What comes next is defining the specifics of what issues they hope to take on immediately, and how the state will actually make those recommendations happen, said Pat Arp, Gov. Mark Gordon’s chief of staff.
“That’s the big question,” she said.
In a meeting Thursday in Cheyenne, state lawmakers rolled out the framework for the first stages of the process, which will largely be an agency-led effort to define specific savings within their own houses.
Starting with this year’s budget process, Wyoming’s government – led by the governor’s office – will be working to identify both “hard savings” (i.e. budget cuts) and “soft savings” — like small investments to save workers time and money – to find ways to, essentially, get the most bang for their buck in their own offices without needing to wait for legislative approval.
“We think it’s the perfect time to do it,” Arp said.
When concocting these ideas, Arp told members of the commission that the governor wanted each agency to consider the efficiencies on a more holistic basis, considering whether or not spending money to improve a program could save money in the long run, for example, or whether or not cutting a certain program could have adverse impacts elsewhere. In the last round of budget cuts there, the Department of Corrections cut funding to its community services, leading to an increase in recidivism rates and costing the state more money.
“We want to do budget reductions, but we want a cost consciousness of the residual effects,” Arp said.
The specific framework of this plan will likely come in late in late May or early June, once the governor’s office begins to craft specific recommendations for the 2021-2022 budget.
However, some specific savings have already been recommended that, according to estimates from Alvarez and Marsal, could save the state between $207 million and $253 million in the 2023-2024 biennium. These include efforts like increased levels of shared services, integrating technologies and internal reviews. Those efforts won’t be cheap, costing anywhere between $35 million and $44 million to make them happen across all of state government, and could be considered later down the road.
However, the Wyoming Department of Education, meanwhile, will be working toward two specific changes, including K-12 shared service centers and using Medicaid funding for school-based services.
Though it was acknowledged some school districts, particularly larger ones, would benefit from the programs more than others, a consultant with Alvarez and Marsal noted that the difference in potential savings between making those changes mandatory or allowing them to be voluntary could lead to higher costs, reduced benefits and a longer timeline to implement.
In the future, the state could consider other programs to save itself money, including shared services within state government, a consolidated purchasing office and a consolidation of boards and commissions, among a number of other initiatives.