A major advance in restructuring state government has a real chance of becoming a reality thanks to the House of Representatives’ approval of a Department of Administration bill this week.The department could be the most important addition to the Cabinet form of government since its inception.
Like its Senate counterpart, the House plan would create a new Cabinet agency under the authority of the governor. Its broad responsibilities would include personnel, property management, information technology and fleet management. An estimated 1,100 state employees would serve in the agency.
Meanwhile, the antiquated state Budget and Control Board would be eliminated. Of that five-member board, the House chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has as much power as the governor on the wide range of matters under its authority.
As the state’s chief executive, the governor should have primary authority over administrative matters. Indeed, in virtually every other state, the governor already has that responsibility.
Both House and Senate bills also create boards with limited authority over bonding, retirement and financial oversight. Legislators should be able to work out their differences in conference committee, and before the session ends.
Creating a Department of Administration offers opportunities to streamline state government, provide a more efficient operation and save taxpayer money in the process. It also would provide a heightened level of accountability, by putting the state’s chief executive in charge. If things go wrong, you’ll know whom to blame.
Last year, the proposal got bogged down in the Senate at the end of the session. There is ample time this year for the General Assembly to finish its work on this long-debated issue.
It should be given top priority.