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Gregoire seeks purge of state bureaucracy

Governor proposes eliminating 154 boards, committees

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has repeatedly vowed to “blow past the bureaucracy,” now wants to blow parts of it away.

Gregoire on Monday called for the elimination of 154 of the state’s 470 boards and advisory commissions, among other reforms.

“Some of these boards and commissions report to no one. To no one,” Gregoire told reporters at the Capitol. “And no one knows what they do. That ought to be a red flag right there.”

Among those on the chopping block:

•The Interagency Task Force on Milfoil Control.

•The Acupuncture Ad Hoc Consulting Group.

•The Migratory Waterfowl Art Commission.

•The Oversight Committee on Moral Guidance.

•Something called the Board of Registration for the Onsite Advisory Committee.

Gregoire also wants to consolidate several state agencies, including merging the state’s health coverage agency with its system for retirees. The state archaeology department would become part of State Parks.

The recession is forcing all employers to rethink how they run, she said, and state government is no exception.

“We need to retool how we serve Washingtonians,” Gregoire said. “We need to reboot.”

Locally, Gregoire is pushing ahead with her controversial call to merge the historical societies that oversee the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. Officials at both institutions question whether the merger would save the expected $500,000 a year. Dennis Hession, the MAC’s interim CEO, has warned that local donations might drop.

The boards Gregoire wants to eliminate “were created over decades of the best of intentions,” she said. But many have outlived their original missions, she said, producing little except “lots of paper and per diem payments.”

Gregoire has committed to $150 million in savings from government reforms over the next two years. She couldn’t put a figure Monday on the savings from her proposal, saying it’s hard to know how much staff time commission work takes up.

With nearly half of car license tabs being now renewed online, Gregoire also wants the state to expand online services. The state Department of Licensing, for example, plans to soon let you renew your driver’s license, apply for a personalized license plate, or schedule a driving test online. The plan also calls, however, for gradually closing more than two dozen driver-licensing offices around the state. Part-time offices in Newport, Republic, Chelan and Coulee Dam, for example, would be closed in the summer of 2009. The state would instead have a licensing van that travels to smaller communities on a regular schedule.

Gregoire also wants more online courses through community and technical colleges, and to make it easier to use credit and debit cards to pay state fees.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said Gregoire has made a good start. But, he added, “I also have to say that I don’t believe these measures will dramatically transform the way the state delivers its services.” Washington should privatize more government services, he said, and do a better job of keeping down spending.

The governor said more changes are coming.

In rural Eastern Washington, she said, future reforms might include combining emergency response operations.

“Do we really need 25 separate call centers for 911?” she said. “I’m not sure that we do.”

She also wants to revamp the Department of Community, Trade and Economic development so it’s focused just on attracting employers, keeping them and adding family-wage jobs. She’s considering moving the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s enforcement officers into the Washington State Patrol.

“What we’re launching today is significant,” she said, “but it is also just the beginning. This is not about short-term thinking. It is about changing the way we do business for the long term.”

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or by e-mail at richr@spokesman.com.


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