Wolf to seek consolidation of 4 health agencies
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration notified state officials and employees Friday afternoon that he wants to consolidate four state agencies into a single department as the first-term Democratic governor deals with a massive budget deficit and a Republican-controlled Legislature averse to raising taxes.
The move — merging the departments of Human Services, Health, Aging and Drug and Alcohol Programs into one Department of Health and Human Services — would require approval from the Legislature.
The details on the move were scant on Friday, in terms of how much money it would save and how many employees might lose their jobs. Wolf’s office said it would provide more information Monday.
State employees were notified in an email Friday afternoon from the top officials in each of the four agencies. In it, they said they had worked to “identify operational silos and program duplicity that exists between agencies and reimagine how we deliver critical services to the 13 million citizens of this commonwealth.”
The consolidation, they said, would “dramatically improve our ability to deliver services that will improve lives.”
The Legislature’s huge Republican majorities have rebuffed Wolf’s efforts the past two years to wipe out a long-term deficit with a broad tax increase on sales or income. In December, Wolf vowed to produce a balanced budget plan that relies heavily on cuts and savings measures, but not an increase in sales or income taxes. He is scheduled to deliver his new budget plan to the Legislature on Feb. 7.
The repeated use of one-time stopgaps to plug deficits drew five credit downgrades from 2012 through 2014, leaving Pennsylvania among the lowest-rated states and paying higher rates to borrow money.
With Wolf seeking savings from state government, such a move to consolidate the four agencies had been rumored in the Capitol in recent days. The agencies house some similar or shared programs, including having money for long-term care of the elderly and behavioral health treatment.