Christine Stuart photo

EAST HARTFORD — Malloy administration budget director Ben Barnes encouraged state agency heads Friday to think about how they can make their agencies more efficient through what’s called “lean” government.

The idea behind “lean” government is to eliminate waste. It’s a process, Barnes said, that is even more important at a time when there are fewer resources. He said employing “lean” strategies will free up staff to focus on other activities and improve “customer service.”

At a meeting with the group of state agency commissioners Friday at Rentschler Field, Barnes joked that he’s had to deny hiring requests from about two-thirds of the agency heads, whom he forbade in March from offering ideas to lawmakers trying to remake the governor’s two-year, $40 billion budget.

In a March 5 letter, which lawmakers have called heavy handed, Barnes tells agency heads they are allowed to provide “facts and data” but if they are asked for an alternative, “you are encouraged to respond factually and with the Governor’s agenda in mind.”

The letter continues: “Requests for new ideas, alternative reduction proposals, or for the agency’s priorities in restoring or cutting funds should be referred to OPM. Agencies are expected to support the Governor’s budget rather than providing alternatives to that budget.”

Frustrated with the lack of information they have been able to obtain from the administration, Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said last week that there are three branches of government and one is not more important than the other.

“There are three branches of government here and we have to make sure whatever we do does not deter people in Connecticut from thriving,” Walker said.

She bristled at the notion that the legislature shouldn’t be putting together its own budget as elected representatives of a different branch of government. She said the process requires the governor to present a budget to the legislature, but then it’s up to the legislature to come up with a budget to send back to the governor.

Malloy, who told lawmakers through the news media last week that there’s no time to “remake” his budget, said Friday that the administration has to speak with “one voice.”

“We have a spending cap. We have a revenue situation. Everybody’s got a wish list. But we’re not doing anything any way differently than we’ve done it in the first two budget cycles I’ve been involved in,” Malloy said. “For anyone to pretend that we are is a gross misstatement of reality.”

Malloy said it was necessary for Barnes to send the memo because there are new state agency heads who may not have known how things are done in his administration. However, many of the commissioners are the same ones he appointed in his first term and to who he gave 12 percent pay increases after winning re-election.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who was previously a state representative during Republican administrations, said similar letters have been sent by previous governors.