Guest Columnist - John Kennedy State Treasurer

Louisiana ranks 1st in the South and 8th in the nation for the number of state employees per 10,000 population. Our state also faces a $3 billion to $4 billion budget shortfall over the next several years.

Should our leaders continue to arbitrarily cut higher education and health care to address yet another budget crisis? Or should they choose the more thoughtful, strategic approach, by right-sizing Louisiana state government, beginning with the cost of labor?

I support the latter approach. As State Treasurer, I chair the Louisiana Streamlining Government Commission’s subcommittee on efficiency and benchmarking, which has recently recommended eliminating 5,000 state government positions each year for the next three years.

Reducing the number of state government positions by 15,000 over three years will save taxpayers between $600 million and $1 billion. No state employee will be fired or laid off — we would simply eliminate these positions by not filling vacancies. The state has an employment turnover rate well over 15%, so there will be plenty of vacancies.

Under our proposal, department heads would also be directed to fully reexamine their department functions and adopt modern organizational standards, like limiting layers of management, increasing span of control, consolidating smaller units and implementing process engineering. In addition, 20% of the savings achieved from these position eliminations will be used to increase the salaries of remaining employees who assume new responsibilities as a result.

Finally, these position reductions would not be allowed to reduce the quality of the services or products provided. No state department head earns less than $115,000 a year, and if any of them claim to be unable to achieve these reductions without reducing quality, they will be asked to immediately notify the Governor so they can be replaced with someone who can.

Over the past two decades, many large institutions in both the public and private sector have had to reinvent themselves or die. Right-sizing government makes sense even in the best of times, but especially when our state is looking at billions in lower revenue over the next several years.

Families do it. Small businesses do it. It’s time for Louisiana state government to do it.

John Neely Kennedy is the State Treasurer of Louisiana. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1973, a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law at Charlottesville in 1977, and an advanced law degree (B.C.L.) from the University of Oxford in 1979.

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