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Gov. Gregoire Follows Through on Promise to Reform Government

Press Release

Location: Olympia, WA

Gov. Gregoire Follows Through on Promise to Reform Government

Governor announces plan to slash red tape

Gov. Chris Gregoire today unveiled a wide-ranging proposal to streamline state government by eliminating unnecessary boards and commissions, consolidating agencies and programs with overlapping responsibilities, and retooling customer service by using "21st century" technology.

In announcing her package, the Governor was joined by State Auditor Brian Sonntag; Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland; Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way; Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland; Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business; Greg Devereux, executive director of the Washington Federation of State Employees; David Rolf, Service Employees International Union Local 775 president; Liz Luce, director of the Department of Licensing; and Jan Yoshiwara, deputy executive director of education of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

"When I delivered my inaugural address, I said state government needs to rethink the way we deliver programs and services throughout the state, and we are doing just that," Gregoire said. "We have evaluated hundreds of ideas from citizens, state employees, and business and government leaders to develop both short- and long-term changes."

"All of us here today agree that there is much work ahead," the governor continued. "What we're launching today is significant. But it is also just the beginning. This is not about short-term thinking — it is about changing the way we do business for the long term. I look forward to working with legislators to refine the proposal in this package, as well as related proposals, in the state House and Senate."

"The Pew Center on the States ranked Washington as one of the best-managed states in the nation in 2008," said Oemig. "We want to be No. 1."

"Reforming government takes continual commitment, and the Legislature has been demonstrating that commitment the past several years," said Rep. Larry Springer. "The House looks forward to working with the governor and the Senate to make one of the best-run states in the nation even better."

The reforms announced today would:

Reduce the size of government by eliminating 154 boards and commissions, and merging and consolidating agencies.

Deliver 21st century customer service by expanding online services, extending hours of operations for some state agencies, and increasing online education and training opportunities.

Streamline government agencies and operations by creating shared service functions so agencies can focus more effort on their core missions.

Gregoire thanked the hundreds of citizens who offered budget-cutting and reform proposals during the past two months. She said many state employees offered ideas from their perspective as the people who actually deliver state services. They included suggestions to reduce their own work hours to help preserve the jobs of their colleagues.

Representatives of two key groups — state employees and business leaders -— served as informal advisers while the reform package was being developed. Two joined the Governor at her news conference to share their perspectives.

"For these reforms to succeed, it's critical to have the active participation of the frontline staff — they're often the ones who best understand the needs of the clients and the effectiveness of the programs," union leader Devereux said.

Brunell added, "Today more than ever, we need a government that is nimble and responsive to its owners —the citizens of our state. The reforms outlined today are a good first step toward providing the kind of state government we need," he said. "Given the challenges our state is facing, we must scour every part of state government from top to bottom, eliminate duplication and provide efficiencies."

Gregoire said her conversations with business, labor and community leaders and legislators have convinced her that "all Washington employers — public and private — will emerge from this recession forever changed. And so will state government."

She emphasized none of her proposals should be interpreted as signaling a retreat from the goal of active public participation in government.

In addition to highlighting the customer-focused initiatives at the Department of Licensing, Gregoire also called attention to the community and technical colleges as excellent examples of innovation in service delivery. Statewide, 18,000 full-time students are earning course credits online. It would require four new community colleges to offer all that instruction in the classroom.

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