LAST WEEK, federal officials announced the winner of contest for government employees to offer ideas to save money. Nancy Fichtner of the Veterans Administration gets to meet President Obama on Monday and her idea will be in the next federal budget.

Fichtner's idea, allowing veterans to keep extra medicine when leaving VA hospitals, was one of 38,000 suggested by employees. Other top ideas, like streamlining housing inspections and beefing up tax collections, will also make it into the next federal budget.

The contest is a great reminder that public employees are one of the best resources for figuring out how to save tax dollars. Many workers, from the rank-and-file to management, have ideas that could help government run more efficiently.

Already, Philadelphia's city controller runs a quarterly contest for employees, with a top prize of $500. That could be expanded by allowing the public to vote on the ideas and increase the prize pool.

The winner of the federal contest got to meet Obama. Maybe if the local winning idea is good enough, Mayor Nutter will spring for lunch. *