Everybody knows government wastes money, says state Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn, 31st LD). The question is, where is it?
That question prompted Fortunato to sponsor Senate Bill 5082, which was approved by the Senate unanimously on Thursday. The proposal would reestablish the state Productivity Board, which, in the past, provided financial incentives to state employees who find government waste.
“In business, there is an axiom that 50 percent of your advertising budget is wasted, the trouble is which 50 percent? We have that same problem with state spending,” said Fortunato. “Legislators like to claim that they have saved taxpayers a couple million dollars, but state employees have the potential to save taxpayers much more in recurring costs.”
If passed into law, the Productivity Board would be operational by July 31, 2021. Cash awards of up to $10,000 for suggestions generating net savings, revenue, or both could be awarded. Fortunato’s proposal places oversight of the program with the Office of Financial Management.
“Front-line state workers are taxpayers, too. They see firsthand how the state implements and spends money on programs, so who better to tell us where the waste is?” Fortunato said. “I think they have a vested interest in making the best use of those tax dollars. The more savings the state sees from their work, the more they can benefit. That is a good investment.”
The program was suspended in 2011 as a cost-saving measure during the state’s recession because of the roughly $2 million price tag. Reinstating the incentive policy, however, could result in millions of dollars in taxpayer savings by returning $10 for every $1 spent to implement it. Fortunato noted, “The reason it cost that much was because of the bonuses, but they didn’t consider the $20 million in reduced spending. Only government would save money that way.”
Beginning next week, the bill will start working its way through the House of Representatives for consideration.