TaxWatch finds $4B in savings

Press Release: A prominent group comprised of current and former government officials, business leaders, organizational experts, and renowned academics have released a report of 125 ideas worth more than $4 billion in cost-savings in the coming fiscal year, which is just in time to help the state elected leaders address the recently increased multi-billion dollar revenue shortfall projected for the upcoming budget year.

The Florida TaxWatch Government Cost Savings Task Force for FY 2011-12 released its final report today identifying productivity and efficiency improvements and other cost savings measures to change the way Florida government operates. The Report and Recommendations of the Government Cost Savings Task Force for FY2011-12 is the product of more than 40 concerned Floridians, on behalf of all of Florida’s taxpayers, working for six months to find constructive, pragmatic, principled cost-savings with special emphasis on pensions, Medicaid and health care, criminal and juvenile justice, procurement, and general government operations.

“We now know that the budget deficit will likely exceed $3.0 – $3.5 billion dollars and the state will owe billions more to the federal government through the unemployment compensation fund. Now, more than ever, recommendations like these to save taxpayer dollars and contain costs are vital,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Mr. Calabro, Task Force Chairman David A. Smith Florida TaxWatch Immediate Past Chairman and a retired Chairman and CEO of PSS World Medical in Jacksonville, and Task Force Vice Chair Marshall Criser, III, of AT&T-Florida presented the report to Lieutenant Governor-Elect Jennifer Carroll and representatives of the Legislature today in a news conference outside the Senate Chamber.

“Thank you on behalf of Governor –Elect Scott to Florida TaxWatch and the Government Cost Savings Task Force for this work,” said Lieutenant Governor-Elect Jennifer Carroll at the press conference. “Having these recommendations will be critical to implementing our 7-7-7 plan and our jobs plan.”

“This report identifies how the state can cut spending without harming core services,” said Task Force Chairman David A. Smith of Jacksonville. “The Task Force has spent the last year looking under every rock to find the right kind of savings for the state, and I am pleased and honored to present these recommendations to Lieutenant Governor Carroll on behalf of Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Haridopolos, and House Speaker Cannon.”

Cost containment ideas from the report include:

· Aligning the public employee pension system with the private section system by shifting the pension system to a Defined Contribution plan or requiring employees to contribute to the Defined Benefit pension plan.

· Empowering a commission to do a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice and corrections system to identify savings

· Expanding managed care in the Medicaid program to save money and help control the cost of healthcare

· Better identifying waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicaid and the health care system

· Removing exemptions to competitive bidding

· Enforcing use of negotiated State Term Contracts to reduce the cost of purchasing needed goods and services by the state

· Requiring the purchase of generic equivalents to needed products when they are available

· Improving collection of legally owed sales taxes on remotely conducted sales

· Improving the capture of federal funds

· Ending the practice of “fourth quarter dumping” to reduce the cost of overhead in government

· Optimizing the use of state-owned and leases real estate

· Standardizing the business process

· Reducing the cost of necessary government communications

· Reducing the cost state travel

· Improving the management of state-owned vehicle fleet

“As a member of this Task Force, I am proud of the work presented today and congratulate my fellow Task Force members on a job well done,” said Attorney General Bill McCollum. “These recommendations provide sensible solutions to some of the state’s toughest issues that will help make government more accountable and responsive to Floridians.”

“I’m honored to be a part of the continuing efforts of the Government Cost Savings Task Force and the mission to make government more efficient and accountable for the taxpayers of Florida,” said Task Force member Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. “These recommendations will not only help close the budget shortfall this year but protect Floridians from waste in state government services and programs.”

Task Force Member, Senator J.D. Alexander, added, “As Chair of the Committee on Budget, my committee and staff have worked hard to implement several cost efficiencies and reform. We will continue to do so under the leadership of President Mike Haridipolos. I commend President Haridopolos, Florida TaxWatch, Senate staff, and my fellow Task Force members for continuing important work in enhancing the efficiency and taxpayer value in state government.”

Emphasizing the importance of the report, Task Force member Representative Will Weatherford, added, “As a member of this Task Force, I am pleased with the 125 cost-saving recommendations that have been published. Many of these issues are very important to the state of Florida and I look forward to working with the House Speaker and Senate President on exploring efficiency-enhancing reforms that will help trim the cost of government and benefit the taxpayers. I commend Florida TaxWatch and my fellow Task Force members for their hard work.”

Chair of the House Appropriations Committee Representative Denise Grimsley praised the Task Force for its work. “I commend the efforts of the Task Force in finding dozens of ways to reduce the cost of government and improve government efficiency, especially at a time when Florida faces a projected multi-billion dollar budget shortfall. I look forward to working with Florida TaxWatch, Speaker Dean Cannon, and the legislative leadership to discuss ideas like those in the Task Force report to realize cost-savings for Florida families and businesses.”

“As Chair of the Finance and Tax Committee, I welcome the ambitious recommendations made by the Florida TaxWatch Task Force, and thank them for their effort,” said Representative Stephen Precourt about the recently released report. “The Legislature will be looking for new and innovative ways to balance the budget this year, and the initiatives proposed by Florida TaxWatch and this Task Force provide bold and constructive recommendations to assist us in these continuing historically difficult times. But it is at times like these that our collective leadership can make the biggest difference, and I look forward to doing so!”

The Report and Recommendations of the Government Cost Savings Task Force for FY2011-12 builds upon the success of the previous Task Force report released in March 2010 that included 88 recommendations worth more than $3 billion in innovative cost-savings for state government – many of which were enacted by the FY2010-11 Legislature.

“For 31 years, Florida TaxWatch has increased government efficiency and enhanced taxpayer value. The 125 recommendations put forth by the Government Cost Savings Task Force for FY2011-12 are some of the best examples of this work,” concluded Dominic Calabro. “I thank all of the members of the Task Force, especially Chair David A. Smith and Vice-Chair Marshall Criser, III, Senator J.D. Alexander, Attorney General Bill McCollum, and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for their service and contribution to the Task Force. I also thank the legislative leadership and the new administration for their collaborative partnership in this effort to benefit all of Florida’s taxpayers.”

Access the full report here or at