Depts. streamline themselves, more cuts to come

By Caroline Moses - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In Louisiana, budget cuts are beginning to find their way into some state departments. Many agencies are making their own moves to eliminate costs. They are streamlining everything from airplanes and cars to some services.

It's no secret that nearly every state agency is cutting or consolidating. Current revenue estimates show the state must cut one billion dollars in the next fiscal year. Instead of waiting for new streamlining laws to pass, department heads are taking the streamlining process into their own hands.

For example, the Department of Social Services is partnering with the Department of Health and Hospitals to share several services. Louisiana State Police and the Department of Homeland Security are doing the same. Other agencies are choosing to privatize things like mail and pharmacy services. The Department of Environmental Quality is even closing a lab. The Office of Juvenile Justice, the Departments of Wildlife and Fisheries the Department of Transportation and Development are all reducing the number of state vehicles on the road.

"They're probably just the first wave," said Barry Erwin with the Council for a Better Louisiana. "There are going to be waves and waves and waves of these things because we're going to have to get a dollar amount whether we like it or not."

According to Erwin, many of the self-imposed cuts, like getting rid of cars and airplanes, will benefit taxpayers in the long run. He said departments sometimes don't take actions they should until they are forced or they must find ways to save money. However, there are some services that seem to always be susceptible to cuts and he believes trimming there will hurt both the state and its people.

"Particularly in higher education and healthcare, we're going to be making some decisions and doing things that we really don't want to do that are not the right thing to do. They're the wrong thing to do, but we're in a situation where we're going to have to do that," Erwin explained.

Of course, many of the streamlining measures will mean job cuts. It's unclear exactly how many. Erwin added while the self-imposed streamlining will cut costs, it will not come close to closing the gap, which is why he expects legislators to pass more mandatory streamlining measures in the upcoming legislative session.

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