What if there were ways to save the state billions in taxpayer dollars, provide top-quality services and help people live better lives? What if we could start working on them right away?

Good ideas to help state government work better and cost less are in fact very close at hand. We need them, because the state is facing a tough combination of billions of dollars in budget shortfalls and a slowly improving economy for the foreseeable future—and it only makes sense to spend our state dollars wisely.

Halfway through this legislative session most budget talk has fallen short of viable long-term solutions. With little willingness to change the way the state provides services and nothing to indicate that fiscal conditions are going to improve, there’s little hope for a miraculous solution.

Connecticut’s budget crisis demands responsible, long-term solutions that will cost less while maintaining or even improving state services. Here are four solutions that fit the description and could be implemented over the next few years if we make them priorities and act now:

Long-term healthcare: Shifting the emphasis from institutional care to in-home care could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year–and deliver on what most people want. Connecticut’s population continues to gray, with the number of people age 65 and above expected to increase by 40% over the next 15 years. If no changes to elderly care are made, annual Medicaid spending on long-term care will explode to $5.8 billion—an increase of more than $3 billion from today.

The Connecticut Regional Institute for the 21st Century says if we were to run our long-term care as Oregon does, we could save $600 million with no cuts in services.

Prison reform: Prison expenses account for a major part of Connecticut’s budget and another area in which prudent savings could be made. The state recently was able to close the small Webster Correctional Institution. With more innovation and a continuing focus on preparing state inmates for a successful re-entry into society, it may be possible to close more facilities. What’s more, the state could reduce the rate of prison recidivism through:

  • Character-based prison models
  • Alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders
  • Effective services for treatment, job training and reintroduction into communities

Nonprofit agencies: The state of Connecticut administers hundreds of programs that provide much-needed and generally high quality social services for many people. State-run programs are startlingly more expensive compared with the same or similar services provided by nonprofit organizations.

The services of state-employee caregivers often more than double the cost of comparable services provided by those in nonprofit agencies. Shifting client care to private facilities would result in substantial savings without reducing services or quality of life.

Leaning government: The Government Administration and Elections Committee approved a proposal (SB-467) that would require all state agencies to adopt lean techniques to operate more efficiently and effectively. Changing the way state government operates is critically important, and the committee’s forward-looking proposal could be a big step forward in providing better quality services at lower cost.

Currently, just a few state agencies are using lean techniques, but the process could be widely expanded. Manufacturers in Connecticut are using lean processes to realize cost savings of 50% and more.

Controlling state spending and making government work better are key ways to avoiding harmful tax increases that will hurt families, businesses and the state’s economy.

Addressing some of these specific spending areas now could produce much-needed economic dividends as Connecticut seeks to recover.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Pete Gioia at 860.244.1945 or pete.gioia@cbia.com.