- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) A state panel on cutting government waste removed any mention of new boards or panels in an interim report adopted yesterday and restored recommendations to seek specific cuts to agencies, services and programs.
The report also touts savings as great as $500 million a year by coordinating the state's agency-by-agency procurement system that now spends about $5 billion a year buying goods and services.
An additional $100 million in savings is possible within three years by centralizing computer purchasing and eliminating duplication and incompatibility among state agencies' information technology systems, the interim report to Gov. Mark R. Warner said.
Gone is any suggestion the state create four new boards or committees and one full-time executive office to oversee government downsizing. Those had been included in subcommittee reports compiled earlier this week for the panel's chairman, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.
The Associated Press disclosed on Monday that the subcommittee drafts proposed the new panels be established but targeted no cuts to agencies, programs or services.
"When the media reports reflected that there were no specific cuts recommended, the questions started coming forth, 'What have you been involved in all this time?' It caused members of the commission to say, 'Hey, wait. We need to look at this again,'" Mr. Wilder said.
Early last month, Mr. Wilder proposed several specific cuts, including the abolition of five agencies or boards and a Cabinet position and privatizing state-owned liquor stores. The commission rejected that approach on Aug. 14, instead adopting generalized criteria for the administration to use in determining where to cut.
Yesterday's report recommended that Mr. Wilder's list "be accepted for full consideration and specification."
"The commission has indicated to me that they are prepared to work as best they can to bring about much of what I tried to do. Many of them have even been somewhat apologetic, but I told them it's not necessary. I've been around a long time," Mr. Wilder said.
Commission member John O. "Dubby" Wynne, who retired in January as president and chief executive officer of Norfolk-based Landmark Communications Inc., said any proposals for new boards would be "refined and consolidated."
"I think most of us would say that there was too much there, given the circumstances of the state," Mr. Wynne said. "Most average people would not understand that frequently when you're going to implement change, you're going to have to invest a little bit up front to get that change."
The final report to Mr. Warner is expected in December, days ahead of his deadline for presenting his 2003 budget amendments to House and Senate money committees.
In the next three months, the report calls for Mr. Warner to assign administration staff to help Mr. Wilder's commission refine its proposals for eliminating, merging, streamlining and consolidating state government.
Maurice Jones, Mr. Warner's deputy chief of staff and the administration's liaison to the commission, said Cabinet secretaries and prominent advisers to the governor would be made available to the panel, but said he did not know how many people that will entail.
Nor would he speculate on how soon layoffs and agency closings might come about.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, faces cuts of his own before the commission is finished because of a budget shortfall approaching $2 billion. Yesterday was the deadline the governor gave state agencies and state-supported colleges and universities to submit plans to pare their operating budgets by as little as 7 percent or as much as 15 percent.

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