Arkansas governor details plan to shuffle state agencies
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ governor on Wednesday called for a reorganization of state government that would cut the number of departments that answer directly to him from 42 to 15.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is seeking re-election next month, said he planned to bring the reorganization proposal before the Legislature next year if he wins another term. He said no state employees would lose jobs through the reorganization, which he said would help make Arkansas’ operations more efficient.
“This transformation will be done using existing resources and without increasing staffing levels,” Hutchinson said at a news conference. “It improves the delivery of services to Arkansas taxpayers by breaking down silos within state government and by combining agencies in a way that will allow for increased coordination within similar programs of the agencies.”
Hutchinson said the state Department of Finance estimates that the reorganization would save the state $15 million a year in rent, leases and by sharing services. His proposal includes putting the State Police, Crime Lab and Department of Emergency Management and other law enforcement-related agencies under a new Department of Public Safety. He also proposed merging the departments of Correction and Community Correction.
Hutchinson said it would be the first major reorganization of state government since 1972, when then-Gov. Dale Bumpers slashed the number of agencies from than 60 to 13. Other reorganization efforts have faced obstacles in the Legislature, including former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s unsuccessful effort to cut the number of cabinet-level agencies from 53 to 10.
Hutchison’s Democratic rival in next month’s election criticized the proposal, saying simply rearranging agencies doesn’t address needs such as health care and education.
“Arkansans deserve bold leadership that solves our problems, not rearranges them,” Democratic challenger Jared Henderson said in a statement. “It’s clear Gov. Hutchinson is still stuck in the 40-year-old political debate of bigger government versus smaller government rather than tackling our state’s most critical problems.”
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