There may be significantly fewer state agencies if Gov. Asa Hutchinson has his way.
Hutchinson announced his plan to slash the number of cabinet-level agencies from its current total of 42 to 15 during a news conference on Wednesday, Oct. 3. This represents a 65 percent reduction in agency numbers.
In order to reduce the number of agencies, many will be merged or by placing departments underneath a larger cabinet agency. For example, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission will be placed under the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, both the Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education will be placed under a single larger cabinet group. A full chart of the planned mergers can be found here.
By reducing the number of cabinet-level agencies, Hutchinson hopes to increase the ability of agency heads to make quick, informed decisions and improve the services provided by the departments. “This will result in improved delivery of services and will ultimately save the state money and the taxpayer time,” he says.
Umbrella departments are being planned to incorporate multiple agencies within a single cabinet-level agency. Combining agencies in one umbrella organization is designed to break down “silos within state government,” according to the governor’s press release. Hutchinson proposes creating a new Department of Public Safety that will house all of the state’s law enforcement and protection agencies. There are similar plans for the Department of Health and 15 health-related boards, which will be placed under a single deparment.
Major departments are not the only state agencies that will be affected by the governor’s reduction. Over 200 boards and commissions are expected to be reassigned to larger umbrella departments. However, the governor’s office notes in a press release that regulatory and licensing boards will maintain their operating authority and revenue streams.
In order to streamline management of the various departments, Hutchinson proposes creating a new department, the Department of Transformation and Shared Services. Within this new department, there will be six offices that deal with services such as personnel management and employee benefits. The offices are the Office of Personnel Management, Division of Procurement, Employee Benefits Division, Division of Building Authority, Department of Information Systems and Geographic Information Systems.
Hutchinson touts the agency reduction effort as a way to improve state services and save money for Arkansas taxpayers. By fiscal year 2021, he plans to create savings through increased resource sharing and by reducing the amount spent on leases and rents.
“This long-overdue and comprehensive reorganization effort will realign agencies to reflect a more modern and efficient way to operate state government without cutting any services,” Hutchinson says.