ATLANTA — In an effort to continue to streamline state government, Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday that he will propose the consolidation or elimination of some state agencies in his 2013 budget.
Deal told The Associated Press he expects the moves to save money and make government run more smoothly. He also acknowledged the proposals could cause layoffs, but he did not provide overall estimates.
Deal is expected to unveil the budget to state lawmakers next week as they convene for the legislative session.
“I think it does bode well for the taxpayers of this state that we’re spending their money in a wise fashion, trying to avoid unnecessary duplication,” Deal said. “From purely a functional standpoint, it’s about having things that make sense and are compatible with each other in the same agency.”
Among the changes the governor is recommending:
• The elimination of the State Personnel Administration, which oversees human resources. His proposal calls for those duties to be transferred to a division of the Department of Administrative Services, a move he estimates will save more than $850,000 and eliminate 40 jobs.
• Privatizing Georgia’s aviation services and selling the state’s aircraft currently being used for passenger flights. The recommendation would eliminate 21 positions, and the associated funds would be redirected to an aviation charter contract that would be managed by a newly structured Georgia Aviation Authority.
• Transferring the Sexual Offender Review Board from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to a new division at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a move that would allow the board to access criminal histories of sex offenders, which they cannot currently do.
• Transferring the state’s safety inspection program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture. The move would make the agriculture department solely responsible for all state inspections, including for amusement park rides, elevators and boilers. The transfer would shift more than $3.4 million and 63 employees.
• Transferring $185 million and more than 1,900 employees in vocational rehabilitation services and at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute from the Department of Labor to the Department of Human Services.
Deal said the consolidations could also help with the state’s ongoing effort to sell off government properties.
“Some of these moves will in fact allow us to do even more of that,” Deal said, citing the Georgia Aviation Authority proposal as an example. “We’ve got a big hangar out there. If we can sell the airplanes, we don’t need a hangar anymore, and that’s a valuable asset.”
Selling off government-owned real estate and consolidating state agencies were among about 50 ideas offered two years ago by a panel of state business leaders. The task force estimated the recommendations could save more than $3 billion over two to five years if they are fully implemented.
Last year, Deal ordered state agencies to slash their budgets by 7 percent.
When the Legislature returns Monday, it will wrestle with a fifth consecutive year of budget cuts.
Deal – who marks his first year in office next week – said that the proposed changes are in keeping with his theme of trying to make government work as efficiently as possible, despite an improved economic climate in Georgia that has seen state revenues on the rise for more than a year.
“Revenues are up, but we don’t know how long they’re going to stay up,” Deal said. “My approach has been very conservative in that regard. We asked all state agencies this year, for example, to submit their budget proposals at 2 percent below the current year’s budget proposal … so our budget will reflect that.”