NY gov calls for smaller government to cut costs

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Paterson administration on Tuesday proposed merging several New York state offices to reduce the size of government and save millions of dollars annually, and avoided, at least for now, the biggest potential mergers.

In his state budget to be released next week, Gov. David Paterson calls for the consolidation of several offices and smaller departments that do related work.

It would save about $15 million a year to start, out of the $131 billion budget. Earlier this week, Paterson said his executive budget rate will be no more than the inflation rate under his proposed spending cap proposed in May, which the Legislature hasn’t approved. Under his proposal, state spending would be held to inflation over the prior three years and any surpluses would be used for property tax relief with poorer homeowners getting a bigger share.

On Tuesday, state budget office spokesman Matt Anderson says a total of 80 jobs would be eliminated, 71 through attrition. But Paterson’s aides say the changes will make future job cuts easier through attrition. No unionized workers, however, will face layoffs, part of an agreement Paterson struck with powerful public employee unions to extract some early retirements with incentives.

The plan doesn’t include mergers of such major areas as the Thruway Authority and the Department of Transportation.

“We’re looking at every option and, as I indicated, there is more to come,” said Ron Greenberg, first deputy budget director.

When asked why huge entities such as the Department of Transportation wasn’t merged with the Thruway Authority or the Public Service Commission wasn’t merged with other utility regulators, he said: “Some of those that you mentioned are definitely on our radar screen, we’ve analyzed them and we’re are looking at them.”

In addition to mergers, the plan Paterson will submit to the Legislature as part of his budget proposal on Tuesday will include efficiencies including using a single e-mail server, shared administrative services and resources, and shared space.

“We’re saying, let’s change the way we’re doing business,” Greenberg said of the private sector approach to government spending. “Over time, when you do it the right way, you really reap the benefits.”

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