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Commission to increase government efficiency meets

March 08, 2005
By: Chris Blank
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - It took a half hour and several tries before the commission hand-picked to increase the efficiency of state government could choose its next meeting date.

The commission is a major plank of the campaign platform of Gov. Matt Blunt, which he reaffirmed during his State of the State address.

The proposed reorganization has been coupled with the governor's suggested cuts to social services. Blunt's proposed cuts, which have included significant elements of the Medicaid and the entire First Steps programs, have drawn flak from Republicans and Democrats who Blunt characterized as "tax-and-spend liberals."

"A lot of problems in our state government are because we've had a liberal, tax-and-spend public policy in our state," he said. "It has made it real difficult to enact real change within the existing structure of our government."

Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis City, said it was important to explore efficiency without simply trying to fire state employees. She said based upon Blunt's initial steps, his calls for efficiency spell the elimination of state jobs.

"Anytime you have a new administration, there is always going to be buzz words of 'finding waste, fraud and abuse,'" she said. "It's easy to say those things because it attracts attention and makes good political material."

Coleman said the governor's mouth continues to get him in trouble and referred to remarks by Blunt earlier this year that to find Democrats, "you have to go to places where nobody wants to live."

"The governor has found himself in enough trouble talking about people, and I think we should be more concerned with passing good laws than talking about people," she said.

The commission has 20 members many of which held posts in state government.

Interim director for the Columbia Independent School, former president of Truman State University and former higher education commissioner Charles McClain said the appointment was a surprise and that he hoped his background would give him an insight into the issues the commission will likely tackle.

"I'm not a stranger to the coordination of higher education, and I've worked with elementary and secondary," he said. "I"ve really worked with the whole spectrum of education, and I think I have some expertise as well as some experience."

McClain will work on the subcommittee examining the education and higher education departments.

Blunt said the state should not operate as a business but expected a series of cost-saving recommendations from the commission similar to the strategies used by businesses.

"The most efficient, most profitable businesses in the United States of America are still constantly trying to become more efficient than they already are," he said. "We need to have a constant focus on greater efficiency and better management of taxpayers' dollars."

The commission's various subcommittees will next meet in early April and will accept public testimony later in April and will hold meetings in St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Joseph, Springfield, Cape Girardeau and Kirksville throughout the summer.

It has set a year-end deadline to provide recommendations to Blunt.