Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Paul Mounts, the COO. ctmirror.org
David Wilkinson, chief performance officer. Mark Pazniokas / CT Mirror

Gov. Ned Lamont used his first cabinet meeting and lots and lots of hyphens Monday to publicize a plan to transform state government into a cross-agency, data-driven, user-friendly, cost-effective and outcome-obsessed model of stream-lined efficiency and private-sector discipline.

“It’s my goal to make Connecticut one of the nation’s most cost-efficient, data-informed, results-driven states,” said Lamont, the founder and former owner of a small cable-television company. “Taxpayers deserve it and businesses expect it.”

David Wilkinson was introduced as the state’s new chief performance officer. He was the director the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation under President Barack Obama, the commissioner of early childhood under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and the leader of a technology group for the Lamont transition.

The new effort, Wilkinson told the governor and agency heads, is “an opportunity to generate more value with the dollars we currently spend.”

Wilkinson has been based for weeks at the Office of Policy and Management, where he reports to Secretary Melissa McCaw. He is tasked with helping Josh Geballe, the former IBM executive and tech entrepreneur named as commissioner of administrative services, make an unwieldy state bureaucracy agile and efficient.

Josh Geballe and Melissa McCaw listening to David Lehman. mark paznikokas / ctmirror.org

Lamont has hired from the private sector: Geballe at DAS, David Lehman of Goldman Sachs at economic and community development, and Sibongile “Bongi” Magubane at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Geballe said one of his key assignments is to modernize the state’s information-technology infrastructure to create a “digital front door” to government.

Interacting with government should come with the same ease of digital banking and shopping, Geballe said.

Magubane, a former information-technology executive at Aetna, told her fellow commissioners about her to-do list for the next 90-days, but Lamont pressed for a more ambitious picture.

“Tell me about five years. What does DMV look like?” Lamont said.

“You are sitting in your bed with your pajamas on, and you are scheduled to update your license or your registration. You receive an email that says, ‘Hey, you are going to be visiting us. Let’s make sure you have to the right information.’ ” 

For many transactions, she said, the goal would be to get to completion online.

“And you don’t have to even visit us,” she said.

Some that happens now. More of it will be available in the next two years, she said.

She told Lamont she is meeting Wednesday with Geballe to talk about his e-government initiative.

“This starts with setting goals and following through,” Wilkinson said. 

The administration is developing a digital tool for use by Paul Mounds, the chief operating officer, and others to track cross-agency objectives. Wilkinson called it “an ongoing accountability tool for all of us” and an at-a-glance “project indicator” for senior officials.

The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth asserted in a study last year that it might be possible to wring $1 billion in efficiencies out of state finances, savings equal to about 5 percent of the General Fund budget. 

Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Paul Mounts, the COO. ctmirror.org

Lamont’s team is attaching no savings number to the new initiative, though Wilkinson said the state’s budgetary issues are both a challenge and an opportunity.

“This is our best chance to move the needle on things we care about most,” Wilkinson said.

The first cabinet meeting was stilted. With reporters watching, every agency head took a moment to introduce themselves and lay out their immediate goals.

Lamont told them to get used to the meetings, with one difference: “We‘ll be doing this more regularly — and more privately — as time goes on.”

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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13 Comments

  1. There is a saying in business … “vision without execution is just pure hallucination”. Let’s hope Gov. Lamont’s execution is as good as his vision because he is hallucinating if he thinks he has support from the Democrat party to reduce the size of government in Connecticut.

  2. Faced with a decade long stagnant economy/employment levels and firm Legislative resistance to reducing CT Budget outlays Gov. Lamont only viable current option to fund the $2 billion plus Budget Deficit is raising taxes and adding new ones. Following Gov. Malloy’s playbook. But once the National Recession begins CT becomes unusually vulnerable. All the more reason for the Governor to look seriously into how the Legislature would allow CT Budget be reduced. Otherwise Gov. Lamont will be unable during a Recession to raise CT taxes sufficiently to compensate for lost CT revenues during the next Recession. And risks becoming a one term Governor. Without reducing the CT Budget during the next Recession Gov. Lamont will find CT’s economy actually declining. And that will get everyone’s attention. Best prepare.

  3. Gov. Lamont has inherited a decade long stagnant economy with among the highest State and Local Property taxes in the nation. And a long string of billion dollar State Budget deficits from an ever increasing State Budget. So the challenge is straightforward. Either reduce the State budget which largely means reducing the Public Union component of about 40%. Or follow past practice and raise taxes perhaps with some new ones. These are fairly straightforward choices for any incoming Governor. Given CT’s “political realities” odds greatly favor new taxes rather than reducing the CT State Budget. Come the next Recession – perhaps a year or two distant – Gov. Lamont will face major pressure to reduce the State Budget to accommodate lower expected revenues.

    Longer term the question is whether CT can generate a growing economy that keeps pace with the U.S. economy. The well recognized institutional constraints suggest that’s not likely during Gov. Lamont’s tenure. Creating a modern CT economy with vigorous modern hi-tech industrial cities – that’s where economic growth really takes place – is a matter requiring decades.

    What we can do near term is encourage Gov. Lamont to realize that raising taxes by itself is insufficient to solve the seemingly perpetual billion dollar budget deficits. Some serious efforts must be made in reducing CT’s State budget. Gov. Malloy did not have much “success” here. So lets encourage Gov. Lamont to do better. Otherwise the Exodus of many of our most capable citizens, firms, etc. will continue and our college grads will continue to leave CT for much better opportunities elsewhere.

    The sad reality is that decades of neglect to the basic CT fiscal and economic realities have come due. Previous Governors have not addressed successfully these issues. CT is not well positioned to join both NY and Mass. as modern vibrant economies participating in the hi-tech computer revolution transforming our national economy. So we have some work to do.

  4. Its difficult to imagine how to be lean and mean in our state Government with the size of the unfunded retirement liabilities, the massive debt service, and the no layoff “deal” struck by the previous administration. I like the sound of the Governor’s words, but the union stranglehold on state Government will handcuff him at every turn.

  5. Can CT’s government operate more efficiently? Yes.
    Would such improvements happen as a result of appointees unfamiliar with state government and generic plans for improving business operations? Unlikely.
    People from the private sector looking at the public sector while naïve about politics will require education. Worse, they’re likely to be stopped by a problem which should be obvious: it’s often impossible to save money without spending money.
    Getting new expenditures through the legislature whose only purpose is improved efficiency is very difficult. The expenditures come soon and the gains come later. No matter how good the arguments may be, there are other things to do with the money. And given CT’s budget situation, the only way to find more money immediately is to raise taxes or bond. That will probably be true for years.
    So any improvement will have to cost nothing and make people in the legislature and elsewhere happy enough that they won’t try to impede the changes. Even after an election has produced turnover.
    Good luck to the new arrivals.

  6. Those imaging a “new day” for CT under Gov. Lamont ought remember he faces the same constraints as previous CT Governors. And that if CT’s economy languished for an entire decade during the nations’ most vigorous post-War economic boom its unlikely that some modest policy changes will readily create an expanding CT economy. More likely the national economic boom will moderate and CT will remain greatly challenged to demonstrate sustained modest levels of economic growth. Especially given the handicap of severely depressed major cities and top ranked State and local taxes. Some modest expectations here are warranted. Along its the possibility that an expected State/National Recession might well curtail CT’s recovery for years.

  7. New hires have all been above $200K per year. Three newly created Presidents at the Board of Regents at above $200K per year. Not exactly a great start to modeling efficiency. DOT has administrative costs 9X the national average. Let’s start there and fix that before there is any discussion of new taxes or tolls. Hate to say it, but I don’t think the AARP card carrier from Amtrak, which isn’t exactly a model of efficiency, is up to the task at hand.

  8. So leaner means paying some of his appointees $50k more than the previous admin paid. He hired a budget director from Hartford who the state will give $54 million to pay off the cities debt. He wants taxes, tolls and the towns to be removed from controlling school budgets so he can tell the new regional districts how much teacher pensions they’ll pick up and how much in taxes they’ll give to cities. Any more lean operations like this and everyone will leave. We are losing people and jobs because of Democrat control.

  9. Between now and the end of 2023 20,000 tier 2 state workers will retire. The present cost for existing workers and retirees pay and benefits just under 3 billion. In 2024 it will be 7 BILLION!!! There is no way to get out of this mess without massive spending cuts or bankrupt.

  10. Talk is cheap… Goes the old saying… But early on we can clearly see that the Democrat majority, firmly in control of all state government with a veto proof “super majority”… Have no such plans. The number of spending bills proposed and nature of those bills shouts out that WE DEMOCRATS will do what we have been doing for the past 30+/- years…
    Tax… Tax… Tax… And Spend… Spend… Spend… While using class warfare to divide CT… i.e. attack the 1 percent who already pay 80 plus percent of all taxes

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