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Published: Tuesday, 1/8/2013

State considers an overhaul of its operations

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Ohio state government could save taxpayers as much as $300 million a year through improved technology and by closing the state's unemployment compensation processing centers, according to a study released yesterday.

The Management Improvement Commission, a study financed largely by business but requested by Governor Taft, also seeks savings through the closing of a workers' rehabilitation center in Columbus, expansion of the state lottery, revamped auditing and buying procedures, and statewide consolidation of the financial management of state agencies.

“There had not been a full-scale review of Ohio government in nearly a decade,” Mr. Taft said. “It was definitely time to take a fresh look.”

The governor said he was still reviewing the report. He has asked the commission to reconvene in a year to review the state's progress in implementing the recommendations.

With the initial investment in technology, Dave Phillips, the Cincinnati businessman who chaired the commission, predicted the state would probably break-even financially during the first couple of years. Afterwards the estimated savings are about $300 million annually.

The report was met with criticism from organized state employees, who claimed they were denied input.

“We think this report suffers because of a lack of our involvement,” said Peter Wray, spokesman for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents about 38,000 of the state's 60,000 employees.

“Nobody knows the problems in state government better than our employees on the front lines,” he said.

Mr. Phillips said there was no concerted effort to exclude union representation.

Among the report's recommendations were:

  • Close the Department of Job and Family Services' 56 Regional Employment Insurance offices and instead process claims by phone for a savings of $27 million. The offices employ 958 people, although Mr. Phillips said the report does not anticipate layoffs. There are two such offices in Lucas County and one each in Williams, Defiance, Wood, Sandusky, Erie, Huron, Seneca, Hancock, and Allen counties, according to the department.

  • Expand the state lottery to include larger jackpots and involvement in a multistate game. “The team looked at the business aspect of the lottery,” said Mr. Phillips. “We stayed away from the political or moral issues around it.”

  • Close the J. Leonard Camera Center, a workers' rehabilitation facility in Columbus, and instead use private services to serve injured workers for a potential savings of $1.7 million.



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