It doesn't make sense for the state to pay a consulting firm $4.2 million to find ways to save money, lawmakers said Wednesday, heavily criticizing the decision by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration.
Jindal's Division of Administration hired Alvarez & Marsal to spend four months combing through state government, looking for efficiencies. The firm's report is due in mid-April.
"Even the best PowerPoint presentation isn't going to cut government. We're going to have to cut government," said Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Several committee members questioned why the administration needed outside help to come up with ideas. They objected to the price of the contract. And they asked what else the governor expected to find after spending his five years in office repeatedly talking about a long list of efficiencies his administration has enacted.
"I don't know why we're doing this, but I'll tell you there's a lot of people who don't like it," said Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington.
Ruth Johnson, overseeing the contract for the Division of Administration, said the consulting firm is expected to find ways the state can save $500 million to $1 billion annually. She said Alvarez & Marsal can provide new insight and has extensive experience working with state and local government agencies on similar projects around the nation.
"Sometimes you do have to spend money to save money. This contract will more than pay for itself," Johnson said. She added, "Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes, a different perspective to find things that you would not have found."
Alvarez & Marsal's contract with the state runs through 2016. However, if the Jindal administration wants more work beyond the final set of recommendations due in April, the price tag would grow beyond the $4.2 million the company is slated to receive for its review.
"We've been trying to squeeze out all the efficiencies we can and find savings and reduce the duplication of efforts in state government. It almost seems to me like this is a duplication of what we've been elected to do," said Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco.
Burns said while he believes it's a good idea to bring fresh ideas to the Capitol, sweeping changes or spending reductions will require legislative votes and decision-making.
"It isn't that much rocket science. The trick is to make the political choices. Do you have the political will to do this? Can you get the votes? Because these are painful things," he said.
Burns noted the Jindal administration hired outside consultants to help develop the governor's 2013 proposal to get rid of state income taxes in exchange for other types of tax hikes. That proposal failed without a single legislative vote taken because of the high level of opposition.