Iowa lawmakers debate gov’t efficiency effort

The Iowa Senate on Monday began debating a government reorganization measure that Gov. Chet Culver and others backers claim would save an estimated $118 million.

The measure would merge state purchasing and computer operations, combine some smaller agencies and streamline larger agencies. Supporters consider it a key to cutting the budget to respond to a sharp drop in tax revenue.

“Today we take a major step toward creating a state government that is stronger and more responsive to the people and better able to handle the challenges that lie ahead,” said Sen. Staci Appel, D-Ackworth, a main backer of the measure.

It’s the largest part of a cost-saving effort that’s likely to be the signature action by this year’s Legislature. [Read the full article]

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Maine utility regulators are giving their approval to Central Maine Power Co.’s plan to invest in a “Smart Grid” system that utilizes automated, remote meter reading.

The Public Utilities Commission said Monday the technology will ultimately reduce utility operational costs, improve customer service and efficiency, and enhance service restoration after storms. It could also give customers the option of obtaining time-differentiated rates.

Commission Chair Sharon Reishus said CMP’s modernized metering system should save CMP customers $25 million over 20 years in operational savings alone.

Smart Grid is opposed by the electrical workers’ union, which says it will cause layoffs. The PUC asked CMP to try to help displaced employees through early retirement and job retraining.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. [Read the full article]

President Barack Obama’s multi-trillion-dollar budget would boost spending for several government agencies while slashing the account for others. Here is an agency-by-agency glance:

Highlights: Obama’s proposed budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars in increased spending to help feed the poor while also limiting government handouts to wealthy farmers.

The budget would provide $8.1 billion for nutrition programs, a $400 million increase from the president’s 2010 budget. It would allocate $10 billion over 10 years to improve access to USDA food programs, establishing higher nutrition standards at schools and aiming to reduce childhood hunger.

The budget also would increase government spending on food stamps, a jump of $11 million to a proposed $36 million. [Read the full article]

Goal 2: RetirementSecond (or even better, concurrently), fund your retirement, especially if your contributions to your work plan are matched by your employer (that’s free money — plus tax breaks — that you shouldn’t pass up). If you don’t save for retirement, you won’t be able to retire.

Get creative: Once a debt is paid off (for example, the $185 a month you pay on your college loans) continue taking out $185, but now designate it for retirement. That’s a painless way to bulk up your savings.

Goal 3: Save for CollegeIt may feel disloyal to many of you to put your children’s higher education funds close to the bottom of the list. After all, we’re used to putting our kids’ needs first in most every other way. However, think about it this way: An emergency requires that you access money because you so desperately need it. [Read the full article]

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