Friday File

April 07, 2017

Legislators respond to possible consolidation of departments

This week the PA House passed the budget bill by a vote of 114-84; that proposal included the consolidation of several departments: Department of Aging, Department of Human Services, Department of Drug and Alcohol and Department of Health. The consolidation is supposed to save the state money. But some lawmakers aren’t sure it’s such a great idea. Wolf’s camp claims the move would eliminate duplicate positions and cut costs. Legislators concerns run the gamut from concerns about constituents who utilize services to actual cost savings versus projected. Additionally the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is fairly new; just five years old. Eliminating it as a free standing agency may be a hard sell to legislators; especially with the current heroin/opioid crisis Pennsylvania is facing.

The legislature has been conducting public hearings on the matter. The administration is touting a potential for $90 million in savings; but legislators are skeptical of that number. Other concerns that have been voiced at the hearings include the state government’s ability to consolidate and make such a massive change in a short amount of time; and constituents getting lost in the shuffle. For their part, legislators have said they are willing to give the plan a chance and the administration an opportunity to better explain how it will all work.