From dump trucks to bee hives, efficiency commission reports

January 28, 1993|By John W. Frece and Tom Bowman | John W. Frece and Tom Bowman,Staff Writers

A gubernatorial commission will recommend today millions of dollars in savings for the state by slapping fees on dump trucks and juvenile delinquents, by capping Maryland's $2 billion Medicaid budget and by shrinking the governmental bureaucracy.

The latest proposals by the governor's Commission on Efficiency and Economy in Government, headed by retired C&P Telephone Co. executive J. Henry Butta, range from decentralizing and completely revamping the state's personnel system to raising a mere $21,600 by charging fees for bee hive inspections.

Taken together, the higher fees and estimated savings could mean upward of $151 million in savings to the state, some of it spread over several years. The state currently spends more than $12 billion a year.

Some of the commission's ideas are new, but many are retreads -- ideas proposed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, legislators or others in the past, but which have been rejected by the General Assembly.

According to a copy of the commission's 73-page final report obtained by The Sun, major proposals include:

* Placing fees on the 9,000 dump trucks that operate in Maryland to recoup the estimated $26 million in damage they do to state roads and bridges.

"I think we're going to sit down with the industry and try to reach some kind of consensus that something has to be done," said one Schaefer aide.

* Capping overall spending on Medicaid at fiscal year 1992 levels, but allowing the cost of the program to grow based on inflation and higher enrollment. The commission further proposes that the state implement a "managed care" health program that would expand the use of health maintenance organizations (HMOs), require fixed-price contracts with health care providers, and award contracts to selected health care companies to provide for nursing home or catastrophic care.

The commission estimates that such changes, together with others, could result in annual savings of as much as $56 million.

* Transferring law enforcement responsibilities from the Maryland State Police to local governments, primarily in the urban and high-growth jurisdictions. Rural counties that wish to retain a state police presence would have to work out a cost-sharing arrangement with the state. Such a program is already under way in piecemeal fashion.

Estimated savings: $3 million to $5 million annually.

* Decentralizing the state's personnel system, leaving most hiring, firing and recruitment issues to be handled by each state department separately. Although the proposal would retain employee protections now guaranteed under the state merit system, the Department of Personnel would spend more time setting statewide policy and less time involved in daily personnel actions.

* Raising motor vehicle fees to recoup 100 percent of the Motor Vehicle Administration's operating costs. In 1991, the MVA recouped only a quarter of its operating fees, but last year legislation was enacted to allow MVA to recoup up to 90 percent of its costs. Fees at 100 percent of costs should produce an estimated $8.3 million annually.

* Requiring families on Medicaid or using other state health services to share in the cost of their taxpayer-financed health care. The commission calls for the health department to develop a comprehensive fee plan, but said raising $10 million through such fees should be the goal.

* Requiring parents who can afford it to pay some or all of the cost of services required to care for, counsel or incarcerate juvenile delinquents. Such a program could raise $250,000 to $500,000 a year, the commission estimates.

* Allowing the Department of the Environment to raise about $12 million in fees from publicly and privately owned sewage treatment facilities, regulated industries and others to reduce the department's reliance on funds from the state treasury.

A package of bills based on the "Butta Commission" recommendations is currently being drafted and will be introduced, aides to Governor Schaefer confirmed last night.

The report says the commission also looked at proposals to consolidate the departments of Natural Resources, Environment and Agriculture, but concluded it was not a good idea. It said that each department has a distinct mission and that combining the agencies could lead to regulatory conflicts of interest.

Similarly, the commission considered the wisdom of combining the Maryland State Police with the Natural Resources Police, but said they, too, have different missions and that savings would be minimal. It did recommend, however, that the two law enforcement agencies save money by sharing training and services when possible.

The General Assembly this session is considering similar proposals sponsored by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent.

The 11-member commission, set up by Mr. Schaefer in September 1991, is composed primarily of business executives and college officials.

The report, the commission's third and final, was originally to be released in December, but it was delayed in part because Mr. Butta was ill.

The governor also was said to be unhappy with early drafts of the report because they did not mention previous efforts by his administration to implement many of the ideas the commission was about to recommend.

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