ALBANY, NY - The New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) today provided examples of ways the state can save an estimated $55.6 million to $84.3 million a year. The savings can be achieved by having state employees do between 50 percent and 90 percent of the work currently done by more expensive private consultants at the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
Edward Lucas, PEF Executive Board Member and DOT Civil engineer, testified at an Assembly hearing on DOT's two-year capital plan. Lucas provided testimony that showed how much the state can save by having state employees do the work currently being done at a much higher cost by consultants.
"Now more than ever the state simply can't afford to continue wasteful spending," Lucas said. "Our research shows the cost, on average, of a DOT engineer, including benefits, is $50.11 an hour. Comparable private consultant engineers charge the state $82.09 or $30 more an hour," Lucas testified.
DOT staffing levels are currently at the lowest levels in DOT history. The department lost nearly 750 employees through the retirement incentives and will shoulder more than 10 percent of Gov. David Paterson's December 31 layoffs. As a result of the work force reductions at DOT, the agency is increasing its reliance on costly consultant engineers.
PEF only has data for two-thirds of the current fiscal year, but it already indicates capital projects consultant spending is higher in three categories directly related to in-house staff employment levels.
"Consultant expenditures are approximately $10 million higher than at this time last year in the bridge inspection, engineering supervision and material testing expenditure categories," Lucas said.
PEF has proposed several solutions for savings at DOT and other agencies. PEF is strongly urging legislation that will require state agencies to perform a cost-benefit analysis before entering into any consultant contract valued at more than $500 thousand dollars. The union is calling on the Division of Budget to set savings targets for each state agency for consultant spending and to require penalties for failure to file reports under the contract disclosure law. PEF also issued a warning to legislators that work force reductions will further drive up costs as agencies like DOT rely on more costly consultants and contractors.