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State auditor offers 10 ways to trim budget shortfall

March 9, 2011 |  4:30 pm

The state can chip away at its budget deficit by increasing fines to adjust for inflation, canceling leases for unused office space, slashing the motor pool, better leveraging its buying power and reducing the amount spent to rehire workers who retire, the state auditor said Wednesday.

Auditor Elaine Howle compiled 10 budget ideas at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown, although it appears they will not go near eliminating the $25-billion shortfall.

The proposals will "reduce government waste, increase revenue and improve efficiency,'' she wrote to Brown.  "Some of the recommendations can be acted on promptly, while others may take longer to reap the benefits, but the state can begin immediately to unilaterally act on them.''

The proposals include:

-- Reviewing fines and penalties to determine whether they need to be adjusted for inflation. In a look at fines against long-term healthcare facilities, a previous audit said adjusting for inflation couild have netted an extra $3.3 million.

 -- Reviewing the $5.3 billion in state fees to determine whether they should be increased to cover the true cost of providing the services.

-- Making sure the Department of Health Care Services eliminates its $423-million backlog of disputed rebates with drug manufacturers.

-- Comparing the actual cost of operating the motor pool to the amount the state would pay commercial rental companies, and considering closure of state garages that are not cost effective.

-- Reviewing the job classifications and benefits packages provided to the 78,000 people designated as safety workers to determine whether some justify the added compensation. The state should look at whether some of the workers’ job duties justify the safety designation.

-- Examining the $9.1 billion in lease commitments to determine whether some of the buildings rented are not needed by state agencies.

-- Discontinuing all or a portion of the remaining optional drug therapeutic classifications for the Medi-Cal program.

-- Considering using the governor’s power of commutation to release permanently medically incapacitated inmates.

-- Working with the Legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that lowers the vote threshold for increasing taxes to a majority vote or some other form of super-majority vote, such as a 55% requirement.

-- Patrick McGreevy