Raleigh, N.C. — Several of the headline-making proposals in Gov. Pat McCrory's budget proposal came from a group that has been working quietly for the past two years to find potential cost savings in state government operations.
The North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform program, or NC GEAR, has been housed under McCrory's top budget managers and issued its first report to top legislative leaders last week.
The report recommends raising fees on state parks and attractions, turning most of state government's motor fleet over to private manager, boosting the efficiency of debt collections and trimming the number of occupational licensing boards.
Roberts said the NC GEAR recommendations could save the state $14 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1, $50 million the following year, and a total of $600 million over 10 years.
"Those savings are in our budget," Roberts said. "If we don't achieve them, our budget is out of balance. That's a good way of holding our feet to the fire to make sure we follow through."
Politicians, including McCrory, frequently campaign on rooting out waste and abuse as a potential big money saver that could avert tax increases and provide money for higher-priority programs, such as a schools. For example, the $14 million in projected first year savings could pay for the $35,000 salaries – without benefits – for 400 first-year teachers.
But in the context of a budget projected to be $21.5 billion in the coming year, $600 million over 10 years is not a tremendous amount of money.
"This is not the last work on every dollar of waste in state government," Roberts said.
Rather, this set of recommendations were meant as a "down payment" on future reviews of state government, he said.