So You Think You Can Cut Budget

O'malley Invites Public To Drop Their Ideas For State Savings Into Online Suggestion Box

July 24, 2009|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

One visitor to Gov. Martin O'Malley's Web site suggested that all government offices close their doors for one day a month. Another suggested a contest among state employees for who can devise the best cost-cutting ideas.

And one person pointed out a relative for costing the state money by fraudulently receiving food stamps.

Those were some of the submissions to O'Malley's newly launched online suggestion box. As the Democratic governor works with his Cabinet to identify at least $420 million in budget cuts to balance this year's spending plan, he said he's open to ideas from people outside his inner circle in Annapolis about programs that could be axed or savings that could be achieved.

"We encourage all citizens to join in," O'Malley said when announcing the launch of the Web page Thursday. "Tradition is not a good enough excuse for continuing to do something in a suboptimal way."

O'Malley has undertaken several rounds of budget cuts as the economy tanked and proposed $280 million in trims this week that were approved by the Board of Public Works. The governor has to carve at least $700 million from this year's budget before tackling another shortfall of more than $1 billion in next year's budget when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

While the governor has indicated the next round of budget cuts will be done by Labor Day and will target aid to local governments and state employee compensation, final decisions have not been made. The governor's aides said suggestions could be made anonymously, and that department heads plan to encourage state workers to participate.

O'Malley also hopes to recruit to the budget-cutting effort a consultant, David Osborne, who co-wrote the best-selling book Reinventing Government and helped run a task force on that topic for former Vice President Al Gore.

It's not clear how much Osborne's services would cost; details of an arrangement have not been worked out. But Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for the governor, said any efficiencies that Osborne identifies would far outweigh the expense of having him on board.

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