Gov. Bill Haslam spent more than a year on the campaign trail promising voters he would take a fine-tooth comb to state government agencies and challenge them to evaluate how they could be more efficient.
But almost a year into the governor’s tenure, few agencies have gotten that far.
A TNReport survey of all 23 state agencies reveals that just two have completed and made public their “top-to-bottom” departmental reviews. The rest say those reports are either “under review” by their department or the administration or are still incomplete.
Haslam’s office says the governor’s OK with that.
“It’s not a question of them being finished or not because this is a working process, and they are being reviewed,” said spokesman David Smith. Results of the studies will be built into next year’s spending plan, he said, although those details are still being examined by the governor’s office.
In his inaugural address last January, the governor said his administration “will be diligent in watching the weight of state government, going on a diet of efficiency and effectiveness. State government will live within its financial means, and a Top to Bottom review will set priorities and establish measurable goals.”
The governor this week wrapped up a series of budget hearings across the state where he asked departments to present their budget requests and detail how they would cut their spending by as much as 5 percent, although he said he’s “really hopeful” he won’t have to cut any department by that much.
Haslam is charged with drafting an estimated $30 billion budget plan and expects to cut as much as $400 million in state spending as expenses exceed the state’s revenue growth.
Officials with some departments, such as Education, said during the budget presentation they would be implementing their top-to-bottom reviews in the coming months, but few agencies offered specific details on what would change.
Other departments have begun making changes sparked from ideas in their review, including Economic and Community Development. ECD finished its review last spring, which included laying off 60 agency employees.
A spokeswoman for the Department of General Services says the agency’s review is still incomplete. In the meantime the department is overhauling the state’s purchasing process to mirror Indiana’s, which has saved more than $57 million since 2006.
The governor’s office has given the Department of Health an extension to develop its review. A new commissioner, John Dreyzehner, stepped into the job in September.