- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration backpedaled Friday on plans to close 18 Office of Motor Vehicles locations around Louisiana, responding to lawmakers who showed strong resistance to the idea.

The closures were recommended by a consulting firm hired by the administration to look for efficiencies in state government and were planned for the 2014-15 budget year that begins July 1.

But when lawmakers heard about the decision to shutter the small offices where their constituents apply for and renew their driver’s licenses, they balked.

“We’ve received a lot of comments about that,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue said.

After senators again raised concerns about the proposal during budget discussions Friday, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said the closure plans have been scrapped.

“As a compromise, we’ve committed to not make those reductions,” she said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Nichols said the administration also has decided against limiting ferry hours in Cameron Parish on a critical route for emergency vehicles. That idea faced complaints from southwest Louisiana lawmakers and local elected officials in the area.

“We’re taking those ideas off the table,” Nichols said.

Among the list of planned OMV closures were the Westwego location where Senate President John Alario lives and the Mandeville location where Donahue lives.

Other offices that had been on the list for shuttering were in Baker, Kenner, Donaldsonville, Bunkie, Oakdale, Amite, Pineville, West Monroe, Sulphur, Golden Meadow and Eunice.

The closures would have come even as wait times at OMV locations have shot up to as much as an hour and a half because of previous budget cuts.

The ferry service change would have forced a 120-mile detour in the hours when the ferry wasn’t operating, raising public safety concerns with the sheriff and other local officials.

Both plans were estimated to save $2.3 million, part of more than $73 million in savings promised for next year’s budget from the ideas of consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, hired under a $5 million contract in December.

The savings expectations were included in the House-approved version of next year’s nearly $25 billion budget, which is under consideration in the Senate.

Nichols said the administration still can hit the $73 million savings figure and will find other ways to trim the $2.3 million that had been planned from the OMV closures and the ferry service reduction.

“We are prepared to make them up with other efficiencies from Alvarez & Marsal,” she said.

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