Albany’s State Of Waste Fueled By Years Of Ignorance And Mismanagement

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (R,C-Melrose)
May 4, 2011

It was reported last Thursday that Albany’s infamous dysfunction also extends to the goods and services it purchases for its alphabet soup of state agencies and nonprofits. The bombshell report included findings which show that Albany owns more than a million square feet of vacant office space; paying millions of dollars to operate 850 toll-free numbers, half of which have not been dialed in months, pays 1,719 vendors to supply the state with everything from copy-machine toner to keyboards; and contracts three companies to run 27 call centers at a cost of $115 million a year. These findings are outrageous, and Albany needs to act to end this inefficiency – today.

Government mismanagement costs taxpayers in dollars, cents, and missed opportunities. The $3 billion Albany spent on its chief procurer, the Office of General Services (OGS), would have closed nearly one-third of the state’s budget deficit this year. We have all had to tighten our belts and live within our means. That’s what makes it so unconscionable for Albany to pay 1,719 companies 1,719 different prices for the same pens, folders, and paper clips while families are struggling to cover their mortgage payments.

What may be the most startling statistic, reported by the New York Times, is the revelation that OGS billed other state agencies as much as 38 percent of a project’s total cost for management and design work – two or three times the industry standard – and then outsourced the work to private contractors at a lower cost while pocketing the difference.

In a state that has the highest combined taxes in the nation, New Yorkers deserve to know how much of their money is wasted on a bloated and dysfunctional state government. Unfortunately, Albany is now so big and so mismanaged that it doesn’t even know how much office space it owns. Every year, Upstate taxpayers are paying to lease, heat, and maintain real estate holdings in New York City the size of the Chrysler Building – even though no one works there.

We must reduce and restructure the size of government in order to stop the state spending spree and cut up Albany’s credit card. I’m calling on the executive branch to initiate an immediate external audit for OGS and all procurement-related contracts, including a full inventory of real estate owned or leased by New York. Clearly, OGS has proven it cannot audit itself. We need to scrutinize a complex and costly bureaucracy independently.

If Albany can centralize and streamline contracting, taxpayers could see savings almost immediately. I support the consolidation of all goods, services, and technology purchasing under one statewide director as well as the elimination of all agency-level procurement directors and deputies.

I’m supportive of Governor Cuomo’s recent initiatives to end the gross mismanagement that plagues our state, and I’m ready to work with other lawmakers on initiatives that will consolidate and reorganize the way our state does business. As a businessman, I have had to successfully direct these types of cost-cutting reforms. Lawmakers have made important strides in the fight to help taxpayers keep more of their paycheck. Addressing inefficiencies and waste will help correct Albany’s spending addiction and put us on a path to future prosperity.