Thursday, February 24, 2005

Governor Barbour: “It’s not about politics, it’s about managing”

(Jackson, Miss.) – Governor Haley Barbour was joined today by Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Dr. Lester Spell and Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps who showed their support of eliminating Personnel Board restrictions on state agencies and departments to save 5% as proposed in the Governor’s Operation: Streamline II, the Flex 5 plan.

“In order to run state government more efficiently, state agencies need to be given the management authority and flexibility to restructure, right size and operate for less,” said Governor Barbour. “Some people believe state government is being run so efficiently that no money can be saved. I am not one of those people. I have asked the Legislature to allow all of us to streamline government and be good stewards of the taxpayers money. As you can see by the people standing with me here today, this is not about politics, it’s about managing.”

Dr. Spell is a Democrat elected three times as Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, while Commissioner Epps was appointed by Governor Barbour’s Democratic predecessor.

Commissioner Spell said, “When I came into office in 1996, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce was in financial crisis. Two-thirds of the budget had already been spent midway through the year. It was only with the help of the Legislature removing us from State Personnel Board restrictions that we were able to gain control, reorganize the department to increase efficiency, and ultimately save taxpayer dollars. In the first year, personnel were reduced by 20%. This management trend has continued. Today, MDAC has 33% fewer personnel than in 1996 with a budget request 5% lower than what was received last year. Despite downsizing staff, the department has launched new aggressive programs that benefit Mississippi. These programs include Make Mine Mississippi with 880 member companies, the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program for low income Mississippians, and the Farm to School Program which has generated $695,000 in two years for Mississippi farmers.”

After given the authority last year, Commissioner Epps explained the Department of Corrections is now running more efficiently. Corrections is spending 5% less this year than last year, despite a 3% increase in the number of prisoners incarcerated. That is a $15 million savings in one year, by one department.

“The Mississippi Department of Corrections staff is committed to carrying out our mission of providing public safety while aggressively developing cost-saving solutions that reduce the fiscal burden on state revenues,” said Commissioner Epps. “I am pleased with the progress we are making, and I am in full support of Governor Barbour’s streamlining plan.”

Last year, the Governor asked the Legislature to allow departments and agencies to be free from the Personnel Board restrictions. The Legislature only allowed that for the Department on Corrections.

This year, the Governor recommended that all departments and agencies, starting with the Governor’s Office, be given the management authority and flexibility that would allow them to save 5% less this year than last year. Keeping in mind that most state employees, and 79% of the funds spent by state government are spent by departments and agencies that do not report to the Governor. This includes removing all departments and agencies from Personnel Board restrictions for one year and providing each with lump sum budgets with the fewest strings attached.

“Others can follow in the footsteps of the Department of Corrections, if given the authority,” said Governor Barbour. “I am confident other departments and agencies can save at least 5%--a total of at least $100 million next year. That will be a crucial step to returning our budget to structural balance.”


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Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741