OLYMPIA - As lawmakers search for ways to save taxpayer money while still providing support to state residents, several avenues of savings have been suggested and implemented by state agencies. It's a start and an effort that needs to be continued.
Reviews by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) and the State Auditor have revealed areas of state spending that can be improved to save money and have recommended changes to the legislature, the vast majority of which have been adopted. JLARC reports show that 90 percent of their recommendations have been or are in the process of being implemented, while the state auditor said implementation has begun for 86 percent of more than 1,300 reports.
“I was skeptical, but the truth is, we’ve acted on most of these suggestions,” Sen. Jim Hargrove said. “But we need to look at what we haven’t done and make sure positive steps aren’t being left out.”
Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, and Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, are leading the Senate Democrats’ reform efforts, which include examining audit reports and ensuring that effective cost saving reforms are protected. That examination revealed the large number of implemented audit findings, including three JLARC recommended bills passed by the legislature during the 2011 session.
While the examination has revealed some new and improved methods, it has also uncovered findings that may not fit with the goals of the state. One example is the state auditor’s finding in which it was reported that the Washington State Department of Transportation was not adequately fighting congestion, a move that would have been in conflict with the state’s main transportation goal of public safety.
“We need to be clear, not all of these recommendations are going to be adopted,” said Harper. “The ones that work will be, but in examining all these reports, we will be eliminating suggestions that fly in the face of the goals of what is important for Washington.”
Statistics from the governor’s office also show that Washington has been implementing reforms in managing state staffing levels, making it one of the most proactive states in handling its workforce. Washington — the only state in the country to use furloughs, layoffs, benefit reductions and pay cuts to manage employee costs — has reduced the state workforce by more than 6,400 employees in the last three years and eliminated 11 percent of management positions.
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For more information: Ian Cope, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7535
and Aaron Wasser, Senate Democratic Caucus, 360-786-7333
For interviews: Sen. Jim Hargrove, 360-786-7646 and Sen. Nick Harper, 360-786-7674