By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley gave an end of year update on his plan to identify and implement spending reforms that would save the people of Alabama a billion dollars in savings during his first term.
Gov. Bentley said, “I am committed to an efficient state government, and we’re making great progress in saving taxpayers a billion dollars a year. The people of Alabama deserve a government that makes wise use of taxpayer dollars, and that’s what we’re giving them. I am confident we will reach our goal of identifying a billion dollars in average annual savings by the end of this term.”
Governor Bentley continues his long-term effort to identify greater efficiencies and cost savings in Alabama state government. Bentley said that he has identified more than $750 million in current and projected annual savings. This is up from the $674 million in savings that he had identified when the plan was first announced back in July. Gov. Bentley said the additional savings come through measures such as bond refinancing, contract renegotiations and workforce right-sizing.
Gov. Bentley said that the additional savings and more state employee retirements mean that there is less of an immediate need for a proposed voluntary retirement incentive program and Bentley is asking legislative sponsors of the voluntary retirement incentive program to withhold introduction of the legislation until further notice.
Gov. Bentley said, “One of our goals is to right-size the state government’s workforce while saving taxpayer dollars. We are already accomplishing that goal as more people have chosen to go ahead and retire before the incentive could be discussed in the Legislature. That means we are getting the right-sizing accomplished without having to pay the cash bonuses called for in the retirement incentive legislation. If attrition continues at recent levels, we can achieve significant savings without the need for the legislation.”
Gov. Bentley said, “While I am asking legislative leaders to delay introducing the voluntary retirement incentive plan for now, we could consider such a plan as an additional option if needed for future savings. However, at this point, it appears we will be able to reach our savings goals through regular attrition and other cost-saving measures.”
Proponents of retirement incentive plans argue that offering short term buyouts to state workers means that fewer workers will stay on the job 20, 25, 30 years and building up massive retirement liabilities that taxpayers will be stuck paying in the future. Supporters also point out that employees who have been on the job longer are typically older, less healthy, and less able to adapt to changing technology than would a new employee fresh out of college or high school.
Opponents of the retirement incentive plans argue that paying people to leave now means that the big incentive checks take money away from current state operations now in an economy where growth in state revenues are already low. They also argue that older employees have seen technology change repeatedly over the least 15 to 25 years and are still capable of adapting and performing well in the workplace despite their advancing years and that state offices are actually harmed when they lose the expertise of veteran state workers.
Gov. Bentley said that the current and projected savings from his Road to a Billion Dollars in Savings plan will benefit both the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund budgets.