New York Poised to Make Major Management Changes

By: - January 6, 2012 12:00 am

Last year, many incoming governors began tinkering with the structure of the executive branch immediately upon taking office, shuffling and collapsing the agencies under their purview to align with their policy objectives. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo bucked that trend in 2011 but is poised to make up for lost time in 2012 with what is likely to be a major overhaul of state operations. 

The Democratic governor made improving agency management and efficiency a focal point in his January 4 state of the state speech and promised that more details will be forthcoming in his budget proposal. “The more I’ve seen the worse the situation is with the state agencies,” he said. “This is going to be a ground-up reorganization … The system has just gotten to a point where it is not operational.” 

Early in his first year, Cuomo started deliberately, creating a Spending and Government EfficiencyCommission , dubbed “SAGE,” that he tasked with creating plans for what would be the state’s first comprehensive reorganization since 1927. His executive order creating the commission  noted that since 1927 the state had grown its workforce from 29,000 to more than 190,000 and created almost 1,000 agencies, authorities, commissions and other governmental entities. 

At the end of the year, the commission released a set of far-reaching proposals. Many of its recommendations would require legislative buy-in, while others could be implemented by the administration.

Recommendations range from consolidating agencies with duplicative functions to changes in hiring and performance management protocols. “Greater management flexibility is the main construct of what they’ve recommended,” says Elizabeth Lynam, vice president and director of state studies at the Citizens Budget Commission. “As a manager facing a cost-cutting environment, sometimes there are antiquated practices that get in your way.” 

The commission projected significant workforce reductions, raising opposition from some public employee union leaders. Merging transportation-related agencies and authorities would allow the state to reduce its workforce by 450 to 600 full-time employees by 2016, while centralizing back-office functions would allow a reduction of 840 full-time employees. 

Public Employees Federation President Ken Brynien said in a statement that “if implemented without safeguards in place (the recommendations) could lead to layoffs, increased reliance on costly contracting-out and privatization, and would weaken the civil service merit and fitness system, opening the door to increased patronage and cronyism.” 

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Melissa Maynard

Melissa Maynard oversees the Pew state fiscal health project’s Fiscal 50 online resource, which helps policymakers understand fiscal, economic, and demographic trends affecting their states by tracking tax revenue, reserves, employment rates, Medicaid spending, and other issues important to long-term fiscal health.