Group to examine state government

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Governor Bob Riley has appointed a blue ribbon committee to investigate and assess how Alabama government can be run more efficiently and thereby save money.

This panel is to prepare a written report for the Governor's review not later than the end of this year.

The Alabama Legislature will convene in its regular session on the first Tuesday in February and the Governor expects this report to guide his legislative recommendations on budget matters.

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The charge for this committee is to examine each state agency, review their respective budgets, and decide whether or not agencies can be merged, eliminated or pared back.

The Governor has directed the commission to put an estimated savings tag to each of its recommendations.

I am hopeful that this panel will not be just another committee whose work product and efforts prove to be of no use, either because the recommendations are neglected or the work product is unrealistic.

Through the years I have seen governors appoint many so called "blue ribbon committees" to study various problems and nothing concrete ever seems to flow from their work.

I am counting on it being different this time around.

During the Siegelman Administration, there were four new agencies created.

If I were on the Governor's committee, I would first look at the necessity of keeping these more recently created departments.

In my judgment, all four could be eliminated or merged with other agencies and the state would save money and have the same benefit of services.

There is another suggestion I would make to the committee.

Most states do not have an elected statewide position of State Auditor.

There could be considerable savings effected if this constitutional office were to be abolished.

In fairness to those who presently hold the office, including the Auditor and her staff, I would recommend that this not be accomplished until their term or terms are complete.

However, my judgment is that the people of Alabama would affirmatively vote to save money and terminate this as a constitutional position.

One of the major concerns I have about our state is the continual low rankings we receive in all categories of services and quality of living.

Just this past week, two new national ratings were published and Alabama was next to last in both of them.

This does not include the question of teacher rankling which came out about three weeks ago, where we were in the bottom 10% in the nation.

I would like to see a distinguished panel, which is strictly objective, secure the subjects on which all national rankings are published and study each issue separately to determine what, if anything, can be done to improve our image and standing among the several states.

If this Administration does not undertake such a project on its own, I am going to consider passing a legislative resolution to accomplish these objectives.

I think it is most important that the people of Alabama know exactly why we rank where we do and what it will take to overcome this negative situation.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing

to P.O. Box 225, Luverne, AL 36049.