A new report from the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century found that the cost of delivering state and local public services in Connecticut has grown at a pace 405 percent faster than median personal income over the past 12 years.
In addition state and local expenditures have grown 59 percent faster than the gross state product, Brian Renstrom, a partner at the accounting firm of Blum Shapiro said Tuesday.
Connecticut’s local expenditures are now a total of $12 billion annually, but the “real issue” here is that it’s risen 262 percent faster than the median income over the past six years, Renstrom told a group of business leaders and state officials at a Capitol press conference.
Renstrom’s report suggested that the state and municipalities start looking at their procurement policies to get those numbers down.
“We don’t believe there’s anything legislatively or from a policy perspective that says, ‘you can’t do this’,” he said. “As the wealthiest state in the nation, we believe we should have world-class delivery of services.”
The two lawmakers in the room agreed.
Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, was quick to point out that Connecticut is fond of its home rule.
“We do everything in separate ways. We can’t continue to do that,” Cassano said.
He said when he first ran for elected office in 1977 he was told he would have been mayor if he had “shut up about all the regional stuff.”
He expressed optimism that this study won’t be set aside like so many of the studies that have been done over the years.
“But for it to work we’ve got to get public involvement,” Cassano said.
Jim Torgensen, chair of the Institute and CEO of United Illuminating, said the group has already started looking at a marketing campaign to get the public behind the idea of regionalism, better procurement, and shared services.
But it’s unlikely to be an easy sell since there are dozens of other issues facing the state many of which are sexy than the idea of improving procurement.
Cassano suggested offering towns a carrot by putting town aide money at the table and forcing them to implement shared services and regional procurement if they want to get any of it.
“I think people want that,” Cassano said. “The best teeth are dollars.”
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said Connecticut is one of the few states that delivers social services through a dual delivery model where the state and private nonprofit providers service the same population. McKinney said he would like the state to get out of the business and hand the job over to the private nonprofit providers, who can service the same population for less money.
“What we have is an ineffective myriad of state, local, and regional structures competing against each other for the sake of each other,” Renstrom said. “We don’t believe that’s a rational way for the state to be conducting business.”
He said there are nearly 80 regionally structures layered on top of municipal government which are ill-defined and create even more confusion.
Renstrom said other states have been successful by streamlining how goods and commodities are purchased. He said Virginia has saved more than $280 million since 2001 and Minnesota has saved at least $210 million in 2011 by implementing a better system of procurement.
He touted Ohio’s consolidation of back office functions and systems which created $26 million in annual savings as a model Connecticut should be looking at.
The Institute looked at the issue of home rule and believes the state and municipalities are fully capable under the current statutes to implement such a system, he added.
This is the Institute’s fourth report on a Connecticut policy issue.
Renstrom said the Department of Administrative Services which is in charge of all procurement for the state and its agencies was not consulted as part of this report. Calls to the Department of Administrative Services were not immediately returned.