A little idea to save big money

Published 12:37 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2014

By SLADE BLACKWELL / Guest Columnist
Earlier this year, I read about sixth-grader Suvir Mirchandani from Pittsburgh who found that his local school district could save thousands of dollars each year simply by switching font styles. What started as about $21,000 in savings at the local level quickly ballooned to more than $136 million each year when applied to the U.S. federal government.
It seems like such a good idea, why not apply it right here in Alabama? The idea is simple: Require state institutions to change the font type they use from times new roman to garamond. I intended to introduce such a bill in the next legislative session.
Alabama’s Legislative Fiscal Office provided an initial estimate that such a simple move could save between 20 to 30 percent of Alabama’s ink and toner bill each year. That translates to several hundred thousand, if not millions, of dollars saved depending on the amount of printing performed by the state and whether local governments follow suit.
We know our state budgets are tight, but Alabamians want a lean government that keeps taxes low while providing the essential services citizens need. To make that happen, we must start looking past the line item level of state budgets and begin examining management practices and logistics.
The savings that could be generated from simply switching fonts clearly show that many little changes have the capability to add up to real savings for the state. The seemingly mundane details of how Alabama operates state government might not generate attention-grabbing headlines, but those are the areas where we can see positive incremental returns.
As a small business owner, I know that costs of paper, printing, travel, leases, and even office supplies all add up to create significant operational overhead. State government is no different. The distinction is that small business owners experience those costs directly. In government, the cost is borne by the taxpayers.
Some have expressed doubts as to whether a simple change like switching fonts will really amount to any savings. If nothing else, Alabama’s legislators owe it to their constituents to try. I am committed to treating taxpayers’ hard earned dollars the same way I would handle my own. That means state representatives need to roll up our sleeves, start evaluating the basics of state operations, and looks for ways to provide a better-run government to our constituents. We may start with simply switching fonts in the next legislative session, but that should be just the beginning.
Slade Blackwell is an Alabama state senator whose district includes portions of Shelby County.