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Brown Seeks Best Ways To Cut Government Waste

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- Gov. Jerry Brown already has cut back on cell phones and vehicles for government employees. Now he's looking for even larger ways to reduce state government spending.

This week the governor asked the state's top watchdog agencies to create "Top 10" lists for cutting waste and improving efficiency. Brown sent letters to the state auditor and the Little Hoover Commission, a state oversight agency, asking for their help tackling the state's nearly $27 billion budget gap.

It's a move that could appease Republican lawmakers who say state government is bloated.

"We must examine and re-examine every possible way to save taxpayer dollars," Brown said in a statement.

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, called Brown's request an excellent approach that takes advantage of previous reports that may be gathering dust on shelves. He applauded Brown for making the effort to change the culture of government.

"I think there are some bold ideas out there," Huff said. "Often times, the bolder the idea, the more difficult to implement. I would certainly suggest zero-based, or performance-based, budgeting. Put every expenditure under the magnifying glass every year to make sure you're doing what you're supposed to be doing."

The auditor's office should be able to meet the governor's March 4 deadline, said spokeswoman Margarita Fernandez. Brown asked each watchdog agency to produce a list and include five recommendations that he can implement by executive order.

"We received the request, and we'll move to develop the list," Fernandez said. "We think the audit work we've conducted as independent state auditor will be ready to provide the list in the time he wants."

The state auditor is charged with examining agencies to identify potential waste, fraud and mismanagement in state government. The office also is responsible for investigating whistleblower complaints.

The Little Hoover Commission is charged with investigating state government operations. It is led by a bipartisan board composed of five citizen members appointed by the governor and four citizen members appointed by the Legislature, two senators and two Assembly members.

Executive Director Stuart Drown said commissioners will have a chance to discuss ideas next Thursday. The commission has tackled a variety of topics, including prisons, public health and career technical education.

Brown is trying to save $363 million in operational costs next fiscal year. He imposed a hiring freeze on a state government work force of 234,000, halted new vehicle purchases by the state and ordered half the 96,000 cell phones issued to state bureaucrats to be turned in.

"Although your proposals often are not heeded, I want to hear and listen to your ideas and act on those that will enable government to effectively reduce costs and increase efficiencies," Brown wrote in his letter to the watchdog agencies.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, continue to work on Brown's proposal for a combination of spending cuts and temporary tax extensions. GOP lawmakers have so far refused to support putting the tax question before voters.

The governor wants a special election in June, meaning lawmakers must act by mid-March.

The Assembly and Senate budget committees are expected to complete their own versions of the budget next week before the plans get consolidated into a single package.

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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