One small section of legislation is making big waves in the world of state finance. Thanks to House Bill 3560, passed in 2007, taxpayers are saving millions this year by consolidating procurement for items big and small. The driving force behind it is our state comptroller, Susan Combs, and she’s hoping the system will quickly translate into even bigger savings for local government.

Her office has been diligently implementing the legislation – part of a larger bill restructing a seperate state agency – that gave the comptroller authority to implement ways to give taxpayers a better bang for the dollar on goods and services that are commonly purchased by state government.

In the past, purchasing everything from office supplies to building materials was handled on a rather ad hoc basis, meaning taxpayers were paying more than we should for basic items.

For example, the new program Combs’ team has developed already allowed the state to save $8.4 million in prison food alone. If you’re skeptical, $8.4 million is still real money in Texas’ budget – but when you multiply it over numerous contracts and categories over the course of a biennium and beyond, the power of compounding very quickly turns real money into serious taxpayer savings.

Other categories of purchasing include road aggregate (basically, the stuff that becomes the hard surface we drive on), office supplies and furniture, and vehicles.

Whether its buying pencils or road materials, state agencies will now be buying from the most cost-effective and efficient supplier. Soon, even local governments will be able to join into the system and do their common supply shopping with the state – providing even bigger savings to taxpayers.

While Combs hasn’t said it, you and I can expect push-back from lawmakers who liked the old system, where they could exert a little influence and toss state business to friends, despite higher costs. The new rules mean that it’s the people footing the bill, Texas’ taxpayers, who will benefit from a more efficient purchasing system.

Not only has Combs been a true hero on promoting transparency in spending, she’s demonstrating a practical commitment to finding significant savings for the state’s taxpayers.

In a time of tightened spending for Texas’ families, it’s good to see our Comptroller is bringing that same discipline to the state’s daily purchases.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of two books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."