I have commented before that in Aussie during the 90's the focus was on cutting costs and that is what is happening here now in the USA!
Scott vows to merge 5 agencies' functions
By Zac Anderson
and LLOYD DUNKELBERGER
Published: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 31, 2011 at 10:32 p.m.
THE VILLAGES - Gov. Rick Scott's first concrete proposal to cut state spending Monday was heavy on symbolism and light on specifics.
Using one of the state's mega-developments, just south of Ocala, as a backdrop, Scott announced he would merge the functions of at least five state agencies, including the department that regulates growth and development.
The proposals to "streamline" government will spark growth and save the state $1 billion, Scott said while standing in front of three new homes under construction in this sprawling Central Florida retirement community.
The event was the first time Scott has released any details of his much-anticipated budget, and it marked the beginning of the new governor's push to deliver on a series of highly ambitious campaign pledges to cut taxes and slash government spending.
Scott summarized his plan to save $1 billion over two years in a 270-word press release, but provided no details on how the savings would be accomplished. His aides said the details will be in his formal budget proposal, which he will submit to state lawmakers on Monday.
They added that the total $1 billion in savings would come from the overall agency consolidations and mergers — not just the ones mentioned Monday.
It remains unclear how Scott will resolve a budget shortfall of more than $3.6 billion and provide more than $2 billion in promised cuts — including a reduction in the corporate income tax and a $1 billion cut in school property taxes — while still meeting state needs for schools, health care, roads and other programs.
Scott said he would take the "regulatory functions" away from the DCA, the state's top agency for land-planning decisions. He has called the DCA, which has a $780 million budget and 358 employees, a "job-killing" agency.
The DCA duties, which currently involve oversight of local land-use plans and major regional developments, would be shifted to other state agencies. But Scott did not specify which agencies would take over those duties.
His transition team had advanced the idea of combining the DCA with Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation and calling the new agency the "Department of Growth Leadership."
The idea is to "expedite the review of local comprehensive plans by minimizing the state's role and defer to local governments, local businesses and local communities," Scott said, without indicating whether he would cut staff or permitting requirements.
The governor also plans to consolidate tax collections by moving alcohol and beverage tax authority from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to the Department of Revenue, the largest state agency involved in tax collections. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation would pick up responsibility for licensing and the regulation of drugs, devices and cosmetics from the Department of Health — which has a $2.9 billion annual budget and 17,400 employees — under the governor's proposal.
On the surface, some of the moves look like little more than a shuffling of the deck, but Scott said they will generate big savings.
The timing and setting of the announcement appeared designed to build positive momentum for the release of the full budget plan next week. Efforts to cut government red tape tend to have broader popularity. By announcing such proposals before the rest of his budget, Scott may be hoping to build up a reserve of public goodwill in advance of what are likely to be deep — and potentially unpopular — cuts to everything from parks to health care and education.
Villages residents Frank and Joan Kraft said they support many of Scott's proposals to reduce taxes and state spending. But Joan Kraft said the budget cutting can go too far.
"I don't like education being cut," said Kraft, 78, a former teacher, as she exited The Villages library Monday.
Some cuts may be less controversial. Scott pointed to a handful of state functions that he considered excessive, including alligator marketing and breeding and the state Office of Recreation.
"If you go through the budget, you just go piece by piece," Scott said. "No different than if you were taking over a company and you start looking at every dollar spent. You just find things here and find things there and find things there."
Scott has hinted for months that he would eliminate or vastly reduce and consolidate a variety of state agencies. Doing away with an independent DCA is one of the more controversial mergers. The agency is loathed by developers but widely supported by environmental groups and slow-growth advocates.
Environmental groups pointed out that thousands of homes are currently vacant across the state and the glut of homes that have been permitted but not yet built in arguing that regulation has done little to inhibit growth.
Scott quizzed a Villages employee about the multitude of state agencies and regulations he had to contend with during a tour of a new 1,600-square-foot three-bedroom home. Villages development director Tom McDonough dutifully ticked off the various agencies, from state water regulators to those who monitor threatened gopher tortoises.
Home building at The Villages has slowed from a peak of 4,000 units in 2005 to 2,000 last year.