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North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue gave formal notice Friday of her previously announced proposal to retool state government that she said will save money and create a leaner operation. She'll still need support from the Republican-led Legislature to carry it out fully.
The governor signed an executive order that lays out a plan to merge 13 agencies and departments into eight Cabinet-level offices, as well as merging some divisions within departments and moving the state ports authority from the Commerce Department to the Department of Transportation.
Perdue already has provided many details of the proposal she calls the most expansive state government reorganization in 30 years. The governor has said it would eliminate hundreds of middle-management positions.
Perdue's office, citing state budget managers, said the plan would save $47 million during the next fiscal year and $79 million in 2012-13. Perdue said it could save hundreds of millions of dollars in the long term.
The GOP has its own ideas to find efficiencies and shift agencies as state government suffers through a third consecutive year of fiscal problems brought on by the Great Recession. A $2.4 billion budget gap is projected for the year starting July 1.
"I am determined to set government straight for the people of North Carolina, and to save taxpayer dollars in the process," Perdue said. "I've told the legislative leadership I consider this phase one of a broader reorganization, and I am willing to work with them to create a new state government that is leaner, more efficient and more able to withstand the trials of a global economic recession."
In keeping with the state constitution, Perdue's plan would take effect at the close of the two-year session in mid-2012 unless it's specifically disapproved or altered by the House and Senate. The Legislature also could approve her ideas this year and accelerate the process.
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said Friday he's generally pleased with what he's heard about the plan, which will be forwarded along to budget writers.
"I think that this sounds to me like a practical way to approach what I think we all agree is a needed restructuring," Berger said.
Perdue's proposal would create a Department of Public Safety that merges the current departments of Correction, Juvenile Justice and Crime Control and Public Safety -- bringing in state troopers, probation officers and juvenile justice counselors under one leader. A
The governor also wants to move the stand-alone Employment Security Commission into the Commerce Department. The Department of Administration also would take in the Office of State Personnel and Office of Information Technology Services.
The proposal also would merge the Division of Public Health and Office of Rural Health and Community Care into a new Division of Prevention, Access and Public Health Services in the Department of Health and Human Services. Another combined HHS division would be involved in services for the blind and deaf and for vocational rehabilitation.
Berger said he was glad to hear that Perdue decided against keeping an earlier proposal to move the Office of the State Controller to the Department of Administration.
Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said states with the highest ratings from bonding agencies -- a sign of fiscal health and prerequisite for low interest rates on borrowing -- keep the controller as an independent entity. While Controller David McCoy would have remained independent, Perdue didn't want to create the perception he wasn't, according to Pearson.
Perdue's budget called for the elimination starting this summer of more than 225 state government positions relating directly to the government reorganization.