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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Trimming the Council Agenda

Governor Lynch has sent up a trial balloon to see if the Executive Council would give up its review of low-dollar purchasing and contracts. It popped. Several Councilors were very cool to the idea of lessening their oversight role of state spending and contracting, as Kevin Landrigan reported in the Nashua Telegraph:
Expensive reviews

The Executive Council decided it would take public testimony in the coming months before deciding whether to review fewer government contracts in the future.

As a cost-cutting move, Pignatelli had suggested the threshold for council review be raised. It now deals with personal-service contracts of more than $2,500 and all other contracts above $5,000.

This threshold hasn't been changed in more than a decade.

Massachusetts ($100,000), Vermont ($100,000) and Connecticut ($10,000) all have higher thresholds, while Maine's is set lower ($2,500), according to Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon.

Rhode Island reviews all its contracts regardless of costs, although that state doesn't have an executive council that has to approve them.

This state estimates that in the last budget year, the cost to prepare the 3,255 contracts the council reviewed was $594,508. If the threshold were raised from $5,000 to $20,000, this would get rid of 455 items at a savings of $78,125.

Hodgdon said one advantage of this reform is it would save vendors from having to wait an average of six weeks to get started on a job.

"This will make it easier to do business with the state,'' she said.

Manchester Republican Councilor Raymond Wieczorek said he doesn't like the idea of raising the limit.

"I am not inclined to increase the amount," he said. "You would be surprised the things you can catch through this process as it uncovers the loopholes that could occur."

Burton agreed.

"I feel comfortable with the way that it is right now,'' Burton said.

Hampton Democratic Councilor Beverly Hollingworth said she, too, wasn't moved to act.

"I'm not ready to make any kind of decision on this,'' Hollingworth said.

Pignatelli said she merely brought it up for discussion, given that the state is facing tough economic times.

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