Keep the Butta Commission alive

January 05, 1993

Gov. William Donald Schaefer should see to it that the Butta commission on efficiency in government stays in business after it turns in its final report later this month. Much work remains to be done to implement the group's money-saving recommendations. At this stage, a renewed commitment from the governor is

crucial.

So far, the blue-ribbon gubernatorial panel headed by retired C&P Telephone CEO J. Henry Butta has delivered two reports, containing suggestions that could save $120 million a year. A number of recommendations have been implemented, such as buying mid-sized cars rather than large gas-guzzlers for state police use and passage of the motorcycle helmet law, in part to reduce Medevac and Shock Trauma expenses. But the bulk of the proposals remain in limbo.

The group's most far-reaching ideas will be contained in its final report to Governor Schaefer. This could include an overhaul of the Medicaid health-care delivery system and a revamping of other high-cost health programs. Such changes aren't likely to happen, though, unless the Butta commission remains alive to help the governor implement difficult administrative changes and shepherd legislation through a reluctant General Assembly.

Letting the group dissolve at this stage would be a mistake. Any new group assigned the task of picking up where the Butta panel left off would have to start from scratch, educating itself about matters that the current commissioners have spent a year mastering. Besides, it would be difficult to replicate the business expertise and respect in Annapolis for the Butta panelists. They are needed now more than ever to complete their task.

Next comes the job of devising ways to implement the group's long list of suggested changes. Some can be done through the power of the governor. Other steps will require convincing a legislature that is often reluctant to act in the face of controversy. Certain departments or agencies may need special attention, perhaps in the form of well-publicized management audits.

No one on the Butta commission gets a penny from the taxpayers for serving. Yet members have put in hundreds of hours in an attempt to make state government more efficient and less costly. They have done a first-rate job. Much more work lies ahead, though -- once the governor gives the panel his permission to proceed.

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