By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Debates on government spending can turn thoroughly complicated, but sometimes saving taxpayer dollars is as simple as pressing a couple buttons on a couple thousand printers.
This week, Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Innovation Office reported that it helped secure $84 million in savings in 2012 through various operational efficiencies.
One such triumph: Changing default settings on Department of Public Welfare printers, saving a cool $1.1 million in paper and toner costs. Settings were changed on 2,300 printers to print double-sided pages, and 200 to print in black and white.
The overall savings came from 15 different initiatives across several agencies, said Office of Administration spokesman Dan Egan. Another 10 completed initiatives resulted in indirect savings, like cost avoidance.
The office was created in March 2012, at the request of the Governor’s Privatization and Innovation Council.
Most of the savings the office reported came from switching providers on a contract that was already set to expire. Out of the $84 million, the state reported saving $55 million in 2012 from a new, three-year contract for pharmacy benefits offered through the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund.
The new contract through CVS Caremark, which started in July 2012, will cost $136 million less over the life of the contract, Egan said.
Millions more in savings were reported after combining programs or services that were considered duplicative. In addition to the improved printer policies, DPW cut an estimated $1.4 million in spending through consolidating three human services licensing operations into one unit.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board cut nearly $2 million in spending following a business management software upgrade, and another $2.1 million from overtime and payroll reductions.
Looking at how the state manages parks resulted in saving nearly $17 million. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources cut $9.4 million in spending through expanding its volunteers program. DCNR, according to its website, relies on volunteers for a list of duties, including maintenance, trail clearing and general office work.
DCNR saved an additional $7.5 million by re-organizing the majority of state parks into “complexes” that focus resources on larger, well-attended parks and limits staff at smaller facilities.
These cost-cutting ideas often come from inside the departments, Egan said. Each agency has an “innovation team” to brainstorm and cultivate ideas. There’s also an online form where anyone can submit an idea to the office.
The state has another 164 cost-saving initiatives underway. After completion, those will save an additional estimated $38.8 million.
Contact Melissa Daniels at [email protected]