1,750 Illinois State Programs, Zero Up for Consolidation

Published January 1, 2008

Much of what Illinois state government does remains a mystery to Illinois Auditor General William Holland, who on November 1 reported the state has no master list of programs.

His office surveyed state agencies and found about 1,750 programs. But Holland said there are probably even more out there because some agencies did not give him a detailed list.

Holland took a closer look at 50 programs he thought could be consolidated. In almost every case, officials insisted their program was special and could not be combined with any others.

Three agencies did volunteer that maybe one of their programs could mix with a similar program offered elsewhere. But in each case, the other agency involved with the consolidation claimed it wouldn’t work.

‘Job Preservation’

“It’s called job preservation,” said Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg), who serves on the Legislative Audit Commission.

The commission asked Holland to review programs because the state has no ongoing process for identifying duplication and consolidating services. The commission said tight budgets make it an important issue.

Reform Proposals

For years the Illinois Policy Institute has promoted the idea of smart spending, whereby the state takes a much more systematic approach to its budget process. Among the Institute’s proposals:

  • Eliminate overlap of administration. Proposals in Illinois to consolidate the purchase of certain school supplies are a step in the right direction, but there is much more to do. The John Locke Foundation, for example, found North Carolina could save more than $60 million by doing away with duplicative programs and departments.
  • Reform health care and other entitlements. Several states are experimenting with Medicaid reforms, such as turning more decision-making authority over to program beneficiaries. Doing so increases consumer satisfaction and could help reduce spending. Health savings accounts and “cash and carry” programs are two examples.
  • Make government workers compete for state jobs. Several years ago Indianapolis bid out more than 70 city services and saved an average of 20 percent on each. City workers, who knew the work, used their knowledge to propose cost-saving ways of doing their jobs and offered their own bids. As a result, they won about 40 percent of the contracts.
  • Make greater use of incentive programs for government employees. This can include enhanced suggestion programs, merit pay, and performance-based contracts. State employees who find ways to save taxpayer dollars should receive a financial reward for their efforts. Program funding should be tied to a program’s success at meeting its intended needs. Programs that don’t measure up should be cut.
  • Use Web-based technology. Doing so cuts costs by reducing the need for staff, detecting fraud, and saving money in supply management. Texas has saved more than 5 percent on its procurement budget by purchasing online.
  • Create a competition council. Competition councils look for ways to improve government performance. The Texas Performance Review has saved Texas more than $13 billion since its inception in 1991, according to state officials.

Greg Blankenship ([email protected]) is president of the Illinois Policy Institute in Springfield.

For more information …

“$mart $pending May be Answer to Blagojevich’s Tax, Borrow and Spend Policies,” Illinois Policy Institute, available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to http://www.policybot.org and search for document #22356.