Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced his plan to reorganize state government and reduce the number of cabinet-level agencies reporting directly to him by at least 50 percent.
The governor announced his plan following the conclusion of the fiscal session of the Arkansas Legislature Thursday, saying his administration has worked to maximize government efficiency since he first took office.
“Today we have more than 42 agencies that report directly to me as governor, and we have over 200 boards and commissions that we have responsibility for,” Hutchinson said at a press conference. “This size of our state cabinet is unwieldy and does not allow for sufficient accountability to the taxpayers.”
Hutchinson noted his effort is borne out of a directive sponsored by former state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) instructing the executive branch to consider reorganizing state government. The state Transformation Advisory Board, created by Hutchinson in 2017, will serve as the chief architect of the plan’s framework.
While non-committal as to which specific agencies would be targeted for staff reduction or merger with other agencies, Hutchinson stressed that he does not anticipate any layoffs of state employees.
“There will be those that are concerned about their position, there will be stakeholders that will be concerned about where their particular department ranks in state government,” Hutchinson said. “We have to set that aside, as well as work with them and listen to them. We have to come up with a solution that meets the objectives of service orientation, efficiency and responsiveness, and accountability in state government.”
Hutchinson cited past attempts at boosting state government efficiency, including a reduction of 1,000 state employees since becoming governor.
“The purpose is to reorganize. Now, whenever you reorganize agencies, you will have savings from a merger of IT functions [and] human resources are combined. That’s where the savings have been before,” Hutchinson said. “In terms of eliminating, that’s a little bit of a separate issue, but through the course of this study, you’re going to see agencies... where we ask, ‘Why do we have this?’”
The governor evoked policies of his Democratic predecessor Dale Bumpers, who in 1971 reduced the number of agencies reporting directly to him from 60 to 13. Hutchinson also alluded to fellow Republicans, citing President Donald Trump’s total of 15 cabinet-level officials.
Going forward, Hutchinson says he expects a report from the Transformation Advisory Board by next fall, which will then go to the Department of Finance and Administration for evaluation before coming before the state legislature in the 2019 regular session.