By Kim Jarrett | The Center Square
Two Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers said Tuesday that now is the right time to streamline state agencies to save money and serve the citizens better.
During a news conference, State Reps. Seth Grove and Frank Ryan discussed seven pending bills that would ultimately combine eight existing agencies into four agencies and eliminate some boards the lawmakers said had not met or reported to the Legislature in several years.
Bill sponsors are asking agency heads to develop a strategic plan for consolidation that would result in a 20 percent reduction of the agencies’ expenses. Grove said the savings and impact on jobs could not be determined until the strategic plans were in place.
While the state is doing relatively well financially, it’s imperative to make theses changes now, Ryan said.
“If you don’t do this now, the next recession, the lack of dollars will start directing things and changes and cutbacks independent of where the need is,” Ryan said.
House Bill 52, sponsored by Grove, merges the Budget Office, the Department of General Services, the Office of Administration and the Governor’s Office of Policy and Planning into the newly created Office of Management and Budget. The office would be supervised by the director of the Office of Management and Budget, who would take on the duties of the three previous administrators.
“This agency will oversee and supervise all aspects of the commonwealth’s governance, including budget preparation, oversee state expenditures along with handling all procurements, HR and IT,” Grove said. “This model is used by the federal government and 29 states to improve the coordination and management of government.”
Ryan sponsored House Bill 53, which would merge the Department of Labor and Industry with functions from the Department of Community and Economic Development and Department of State into the newly created Department of Business, Tourism and Workforce Development.
“What it does for the commonwealth is it puts a one-stop shop so that we can somewhat put an end to this idea of not being properly focused,” Ryan said.
House Bill 54, sponsored by Rep. Matt Dowling, would create the Department of Local Government and Community Affairs to handle tasks now assigned to the Department of State and the Department of Community and Economic Development. A cabinet position, the Department of the Commonwealth would oversee the department. The goal of the department is to provide local governments one place to go for managing elections and other local issues. The office is needed to help the Pennsylvania’s nearly 5,000 local governments, the most of any other state except for Illinois.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed merging the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services into one department. House Bill 55, sponsored by Rep. Paul Schemel, would accomplish that by merging the departments into a newly-formed Department of Health and Human Services.
House Bill 56 would consolidates the state’s IT departments. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Ortitay, would require regular testing of the state’s cybersecurity capabilities, Grove said.
House Bill 57 from Rep. Jonathan Fritz would a number of state boards and commissions, including the Interstate Rail Passenger Advisory Council, Pennsylvania Public Television Network Commission, Industrial Resource Center Strategic Advisory Board, Small Business Advocacy Council, Advisory Committee on Probation, Joint Committee to Review Cost of Living, Legislative Representative for Collective Bargaining, Pennsylvania Quality Leadership Awards Council, Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Advisory Committee and the Weather Modification Board.
Workforce system programs currently under the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Department of Human Services would be combined and placed under one agency in House Bill 58, sponsored by Rep. Justin Walsh.