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Government Efficiencies Must Top Priorities during Budget Debate

by Rep. Gary Day (R-Berks/Lehigh) 

One of my top priorities in government reform is identifying ways we can cut costs, streamline and make government operate more efficiently.  Legislators always need to be responsible stewards of taxpayer money, especially during tough economic times. 

When governments get larger, it’s time to take a close look at ways to make them more efficient. 

We need to eliminate ineffective programs, decrease excess staff and find ways to do the same job more efficiently with technology or innovative thinking. 

We have entered an era when taxpayers are looking at governments with the expectation that they will do more with less.  However, when a government looks at itself, it sometimes cannot see the change that is needed. 

A number of good ideas have been discussed this year as possible solutions to lowering the cost of government without adversely affecting the services it offers. It is imperative we find ways to do more with fewer government dollars. 

At a press conference in May, two of my colleagues, Reps. John Bear (R-Lancaster) and Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) joined with House Republican leaders to reveal several recommendations on how state government could become more efficient.  

One of the simplest proposals unveiled is to expand the use of purchase cards (P-Cards) - electronic payments to buy goods and services it needs.  If P-Cards are used by state government for 20 percent of total number of transactions in Pennsylvania, it could save $62 million.  If used 70 percent of the time, the state could save as much as $219 million.   

Also, Pennsylvania has become very self sufficient at processing its own Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  We could perform this service for other states, generating millions annually and saving other states money by processing their SSI payments at a reduced fee. This could generate $50 million to $152 million annually. 

Reducing tax refund errors in the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue could save taxpayers upward of $50 million a year.  Right-sizing the state’s fleet of vehicles, which cost taxpayers $72.5 million annually, could cut that expense in half.  Eliminating Medicaid eligibility errors, as detailed by Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner (D-Allegheny) in an audit last year, could save at least $288 million if the error rate is 4 percent as DPW admits, and up to $1 billion if the error rate is as high as 14 percent, as Wagner suggests.  Improved compliance with Pennsylvania’s unclaimed property laws could mean $50 million to $80 million annually. Lastly, Pennsylvania is missing out on $706 million annually in uncollected Sales and Use Taxes for electronic and non-electronic business-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions.  If just 3 percent of that is captured, that’s $21 million. 

Two of these ideas – increased use of P-cards and addressing the Revenue Department error rate – have already been endorsed by Gov. Ed Rendell and could be included in the final budget proposal.  

The sale and privatization of the state store system has been proposed by House Republican Whip Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and could generate a one-time influx of $2 billion with up to $500 million in taxes each year.  Auctioning the wholesale and retail licenses should be done through competitive bidding, and open to current state store managers and union employees. Pennsylvania should consider eliminating the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and combining its patronage-laden operation into the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).  

I am looking into these ideas and others during state budget negotiations.  Please feel free to contact me at one of my offices at 6299 State Route 309 in New Tripoli, or in the Maxatawny Township Building at 127 Quarry Road. My website is if you would like more information.   

Rep. Gary Day
187th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(717) 787-3017
(610) 760-7082
Contact:  Todd Abele
(717) 783-3957
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