Asa's government transformation plan is looming. People are talking | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 14, 2018

Asa's government transformation plan is looming. People are talking

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 8:11 AM

TRANSFORMED: DHS combined multiple agencies years ago. Asa Hutchinson plans similar for other agencies in the name of efficiency.
  • TRANSFORMED: DHS combined multiple agencies years ago. Asa Hutchinson plans similar for other agencies in the name of efficiency.
The Democrat-Gazette's MIchael Wickline today quoted Gov. Asa Hutchinson as saying he hoped to rejoin the Correction Department and Community Correction Department, a merger forecast here back in July when Sheila Sharp was sacked as boss of Community Correction. Brother, that ain't all the governor has in mind.

In recent days tips have been flowing in about Hutchinson's ideas for reducing the number of cabinet-level departments in the name of "transformation." He says he'll soon be outlining these ideas. Two biggies reported to be in the works:

* Merging the Arkansas Economic Development Commission with Parks and Tourism and the Department of Arkansas Heritage, making first-class flyer Mike Preston at AEDC boss of all the ad dollars one man could possibly survey. The idea has the tourism industry nervous, as well it should. Tourism is big business — producing a whole lot more currently than that mythical pulp mill the Chinese are supposed to build near Arkadelphia — but a decidedly different enterprise than lavishing corporate welfare on communists.

* A Homeland Security Department. This would include perhaps the State Police, Emergency Management, the drug office and more. Heck, maybe they could roll up the National Guard, too.

Whatever final details emerge — and I'm seeking them — they will be sold to the legislature as efficiency producing. I'm skeptical. No combinations eliminate agencies. Former department heads will be division heads. But there WILL be new bureaucracy — new megabosses with fat pay and expense allowances to oversee larger domains. They will need secretaries and flacks and factotums and, if they're like Leslie Rutledge, lots of guys with earpieces and sidearms at the wheels of big SUVs.

The rollup years ago of multiple agencies into the Department of Human Services is a template for the efficiencies produced by transformation.

If "efficiencies" do result, they will mean the loss of many lower-level jobs, of the sort — such as the probation and parole officers Sheila Sharp insisted were in short supply — that actually provide public services.

Stay tuned.

Oh, retirees got a respite yesterday. Hutchinson says he has no intention of combining the multiple state retirement systems. Managing financial accounts for different types of workers doesn't make sense, he said. Whereas mushing the groundskeepers at Toltec Mounds State Park under the umbrella the Department of Chinese Corporate Welfare does. (A scary thought: What if Stacy Hurst, now presiding over the colonaded Heritage building, emerged as a megaboss?)

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