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Sink: I'll take that Blackberry...and raise you some taxpayer savings

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is running for governor during a painful budget crunch. So cutting expenses and saving taxpayers money is the kind of stuff that makes for positive headlines and future campaign messaging.

Sink had a taxpayer-friendly message to send today, when she announced she is saving over $200,000 alone by cracking down on Blackberry, cell phone and wireless air card use within the Department of Financial Services, which she oversees.

She is disconnecting 116 Blackberrys, 56 cell phones and 40 air cards for a savings of $122,000, and will save roughly another $80,000 by using cheaper air card service and negotiating better wireless plans for cell phone-toting employees.

"We need to be doing everything we can in state government to cut waste and I am excited by the money we will save for the taxpayers of Florida," Sink said.

Sink was blasted earlier this summer along with her gubernatorial opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, for their use of taxpayer-funded state planes.

Thursday SIink pointed to the cell phone and Blackberry cutbacks as proof she is a fiscal watchdog.  She says cost saving and efficiency measures she has pushed since taking office will save the department of financial services some $5 million in 2009.

For example, Sink in February consolidated the Department’s 11 consumer call centers into two, saving nearly $727,000 so far and a projected $2.25 million each year. She has also renegotiated contracts.

The wireless crackdown is among the recommendations of a task force Sink formed in January. Today she said she is sending a letter to other agency heads along with the task force recommendations, suggesting they heed them to save money in their departments.

Other agencies will have to make similar cutbacks to their wireless budgets, thanks to legislation passed this spring in response to a state report showing millions of dollars are spent each year on cell phones and BlackBerrys — with little control or consistency over who uses them, and at what cost.

In March, the Legislature’s watchdog agency released a report that showed state agencies have spent at least $17 million annually on more than 41,000 cell phones, air cards and personal digital assistants like BlackBerrys. The report by OPPAGA recommended that the state establish consistent policies on wireless devices, laying out who should have them and monitoring costs more closely. Lawmakers heeded the recommendation, writing it into law.

Read Sink's report here:Download SINKWireless Device Cost Savings Report 8-31