Jindal spending $4 million to find savings

Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to spend money to save money.

The Jindal administration announced Friday that a private consultant will receive $4 million to identify cost savings across state government. Tapped for the job was Alvarez and Marsal, the same New York-based global management firm that assessed the state’s tax structure for the governor’s failed tax overhaul last year.

The hiring, which was announced late Friday afternoon, caught at least one legislator by surprise. State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans, characterized the idea as crazy and said the governor’s aides should be qualified enough to find ways to save money.

“Though I applaud the idea of finding efficiencies in government, the fact that he’s going to spend $4 million ... is a bit concerning,” Henry said.

Alvarez and Marsal and its subcontractors are tasked with brainstorming for improvements in the way the state delivers and manages health care, transportation, public safety and debt collection, among other areas. The administration emphasized that no net new taxes will be accepted as a workable idea.

“Over the past six years we have found ways to streamline government and make it more efficient for our people. This project will continue that mission in order to save taxpayer dollars and improve government services,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said in a prepared statement.

Alvarez and Marsal already has begun a “90-day government effectiveness and efficiency assessment, focusing on realistic changes that will produce quick, but tangible results that will build upon themselves,” according to the Jindal administration.

State government has grappled with budget problems over the past few years. In a few weeks, the Jindal administration will unveil next year’s proposed state operating budget to legislators.

Nichols’ office vowed that Alvarez and Marsal will produce far beyond $4 million in savings for state government.

Kathy Kliebert, secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said she looks forward to seeing what a fresh set of eyes can produce. Suzy Sonnier, secretary of the state Department of Children and Family Services, said her agency’s already tackled the low-hanging fruit and could use additional ideas.

The hiring created a stir on Twitter Friday night with the comments largely being snarky. “Silly me, I thought we hire all those state employees to find ways to operate the state more efficiently,” political commentator C. B. Forgotston wrote. Kirstin Alvanitakis, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Democratic Party, offered some free advice. “Cut some of the state boards and commissions like you said you would,” she tweeted the governor. More ideas were solicited under the hashtag #FreeIdeasForBobby.