You’ll often hear me say that the vision for my administration is to grow Nebraska. While private sector job creators are the economic engine of Nebraska, state government helps provide the framework and infrastructure that can either support or hinder growth. Over the past two years, my team has worked to make state government more effective, more efficient and more customer-focused to help grow Nebraska. Whether it’s launching our first-in-the-nation reemployment program or putting more services online, our team is making state government work for the taxpayers of Nebraska.
Our first-in-the-nation reemployment program has been producing real results in the year and a-half since it’s been launched. Not only are job seekers getting back to work more quickly, but Nebraska’s job creators are seeing relief from unemployment taxes. Because our reemployment system paid out $14 million less in unemployment claims last year, we were able to reduce Nebraska’s unemployment insurance tax by 25 percent for this year, an over $17 million tax cut. The reemployment program has even been winning national awards, including the 2016 Full Employment Best Practices Award and the J. Eldred Hill Award for excellence in the public policy arena. Thank you to Commissioner John Albin and the Department of Labor for all their great work to help our job seekers find new opportunities.
My administration has also put a focus on delivering more state services online. For example, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) has put the application process for their storm water construction permits online. Since November 2015, the agency has delivered over 1,000 permits online, helping both the private and public sector deliver projects quickly. The new online process has prevented the need for NDEQ staff to re-input information submitted by the applicant, and reduces lag time of paperwork being sent back and forth between the applicant and state agencies. Thank you to Director Jim Macy and his team for all their work to make our permitting processes more efficient.
To help drive this mindset of delivering better customer service throughout state government, my administration has created the Center for Operational Excellence. At the beginning of this year, we announced that over 12,000 team members in my agencies had received basic fundamentals of process improvement to create a culture of operational excellence in state government. Understanding process improvement is fundamental to making state government more effective and more efficient because it helps team members understand how to deliver a higher level of service at the same or lower cost.
Take the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) for example. They are using process improvement to avoid costly spending on required inmate healthcare. Over the years, the agency has been required to transport inmates outside of prisons to receive specialized medical care. Recently, NDCS developed a review process to minimize such travel orders. With this process in place, the agency has successfully avoided over 1,900 hours of overtime and hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses associated with travel orders. With these changes, NDCS has been able to maintain healthcare quality, utilize resources more efficiently, and protect our Corrections Officers and the public.
We are not only improving processes and services in specific programs, but I have also worked with the Legislature to merge state agencies to deliver a higher level of customer service. This session, Sen. John Murante and I worked together to consolidate state services for veterans into a single agency. This creates a one-stop shop for our 143,000 veterans. After successfully working with Sen. Curt Friesen and the Legislature, we are merging the Departments of Roads and Aeronautics to create a Department of Transportation. This move will allow us to focus more resources on roads and runways to create the infrastructure to grow Nebraska.
These are just a few of the areas that your team at the State of Nebraska are working on to support the private sector in growing Nebraska. These initiatives are not only improving services for each agency’s customers, but they are also helping to transform the culture and mindset of state government.