29 May 2012

Committee action, May 29: HB 327, HB 328, HB 1092

HB 327 by Rep. Dee Richard would eliminate 10 percent of all funding to contracts. Treasurer John Kennedy, as he had in the House, argued to the Senate Finance Committee that with so many of them out there that surely some weren’t really needed, and gave examples of some that seemed superfluous. He said some of them had been subject to line-item vetoes but then had been wangled out of the executive branch.

Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater testified that the total dollar amount of contracts from state government had been reduced by over a quarter since Gov. Bobby Jindal took office. He said an arbitrary cut of 10 percent would cause problems especially for larger contracts. He noted that contractual agreements with the federal government also constrained cuts of this nature. And, he said the Administration was sensitive to the issue of end runs. He pointed out that queries were handled all of the time about them.

A couple of senators then peppered Kennedy with defenses of some of the contract titles and amounts he had read out. Kennedy said they weren’t bogus, put perhaps should not be priorities. Sen. Edwin Murray said he thought the better approach was to vet by contract by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, as Kennedy had suggested be done on a case-by-case basis.

Sen. Dan Claitor wanted to know if the review procedures in the bill were anything new. The answer was not really, that most of it was in law of civil service rules, and the rest was practice.
Sen. Norby Chabert asked to amend the bill to exclude the Department of State. Without objection, the amendment was approved.

Kennedy closed by reading letters that asserted contracting was more expensive often than doing it by government. Richard said it would not apply to local governments.

Sen. Greg Tarver motioned to defer, and without objection it was.

HB 328 by Richard would reduce state employees by 5,000 over three years. Kennedy said this could be done by attrition, and said this was possible because managerial span of control was too small. He said there had been just a one percent reduction over six years in total (not full-time equivalent) positions, and that compensation costs actually had gone up $650 million more, because of benefits, overtime and other forms of additional forms of compensation, and adding new employees. Again, too many managers and not enough employees he saw as the culprit.

Rainwater said in fact the full-time equivalent positions over the past three years had been twice the total size of the total positions over the six year period. He said the more “strategic” approach of the administration was working.

Chairman Jack Donahue said previous legislation had made as a goal the reduction of positions by 5 percent, and to his mind it seemed departments were carrying it out.

Tarver then moved to defer. With no objection, it was deferred.

HB 1092 by Rep. Jim Fannin would make the reception of an income tax refund, rather than only by debit card, could occur by other means. He said he wished an amendment could be added, which creates a sunset provision for three years to compare methods. This way, he could see whether the superior cost savings from the card was worth it, compared to other methods. It was offered and added without objection.

With that, the bill was moved as amended without objection.

We’re talking about warm bodies – although I’m in the business of cold bodies ….
Tarver, whose family is in the mortuary business.

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