The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

VIRGINIA STATE BUDGET CRISIS


Governor gets tough on out of control spending... maybe.

Drastic times call for big sacrifices.

But seriously...


Sometimes you just got to laugh.

Either that or cry. Sometimes I am not sure.

Yesterday's Richmond Times Dispatch heralded the headlines"Governor's plan includes 74 layoffs" and then goes on to explain that there will be other measures as well, including keeping 386 job positions vacant, and as a show of personal sacrifice a 5 percent cut in the Governor's own personal pay check.

I like Governor Kaine, and that is real big of him to take a personal 5 percent pay cut. But....

We got problems, big problems right here in "River City" ... that being in our beautiful State Capital of Richmond on the James.

The new budget totals $74 BILLION. That is Billion with a big B. There is an estimated $641 million shortfall.

To balance the budget, the Governor's plan calls for $300 million in actual cuts, and possibly another $303 million from the so called State rainy-day fund (that meaning emergency fund).

All I can say is WOW!!!

Considering how fast the Virginia State budget has ballooned in recent years, a mere $300 million cut in the planned $74 BILLION budget is a trifling sum.

Here in Virginia we can barely pay for keeping our roads up. The average cost for tuition and mandatory fees to send one child to a Virginia state university is now almost $15,000 a year. We have a terrible track record on how we treat our mentally ill, and other social ills. We have seen a General Assembly that protects "loan sharking" in the form of Payday Lending. We have seen in recent times creative approaches to raising revenues... that being imposing brutally high fines on bad drivers with Virginia driver's licenses... under the guise of improving highway safety... hog wash.

I can go on and on but then I might cry. So back to the subject that causes me some amusement!

Now the headlines focus on the layoff of 74 state workers as if that is some kind of big deal.

Well, I can certainly feel sorry for the unlucky 74 state workers who will be making the supreme sacrifice in the interest of balancing the state budget.

But consider this... the state workforce is presently over 100,000 workers. In the big picture, what significance is 74 layoffs? That is a cut of 74 one hundredths of one percent in the state laborforce!!!

In my work, I have the privilege of working with many of these fine civil servants and know that most work hard and do an important job for the citizens of Virginia.

But lets be honest. There is abundant fat in State government. Too many state agencies are larded up with arcane job positions of questionable utility. In some of the worst cases there are three or four agency personnel doing the work that can be done by one person in most small businesses. Sometimes it is hard to figure out why those jobs exist at all. There always has been fat in government. In private business, management has no choice but to wield the axe and slash out hundreds or even thousands of jobs when business conditions dictate. In government, there is a all to common instinct to just raise taxes.

Much of the fat in government is politically protected turf and it is hard for a Governor to go in and do what needs to be done, even if he wanted to.

The idea that 74 state worker layoffs will significantly impact the current budget crisis is laughable. It is like spitting in the ocean.

What is really needed, is a 5 percent cut across the board, for all agencies and then surgically targeted cuts of obvious waste. Then the next time, look for more cuts. We need to do more with fewer people. This is what private businesses do or else they perish. Modern technology makes these kinds of efficiencies very achievable. So why not Virginia state government?

The business world has been flattening out and cutting back in management and personnel, learning to do more with fewer workers for decades now. Those that don't have gone out of business. Government on the other hand remains stuck in the old ways to assume that a little growth every year is normal and accepted no matter how much the taxpayers might squawk.

Politically protected turf is always a part of any governmental bureaucracy. And of course there will always a little fat in government.

But lets get serious about this issue. Taxpayers don't mind paying taxes, but it sure would be nice to see our politicians do something meaningful to control the bloated expansion of the state budget.

11 Comments:

  • At 10/03/2007 4:03 PM, Anonymous Ludwig said…

    As a state employee, I say your observations are spot on. Someday, a Governor will require that his or her cabinet secretaries and agency directors run a tight ship, eliminate waste, and seek efficiency. Until then, we'll continue to have these wild swings of unbridled hiring followed by lay-offs.

     
  • At 10/03/2007 8:19 PM, Blogger Charles said…

    Plus, he's not even really cutting STATE government that much. Part of his "real cuts" is cutting money pledged to localities for police services.

    Prince William is going to lose a half-million dollars of police money.

     
  • At 10/03/2007 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    good to see you back Will, I have to (mostly) agree.

    I look forward to future post...

     
  • At 10/04/2007 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Isn't it ironic that 23 of the 74 layoffs are at mental health treatment centers, this being the single largest block of layoffs?

     
  • At 10/04/2007 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If the state could actually trim 5 percent out of the planned 74 billion budget and set it aside, which I do not believe is going to happen, that money could start making a real impact on the transportation priorities.

     
  • At 10/07/2007 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Check out Jeff Schapiro's "The price of sacrifice for Kaine in Sunday's Richmond TD. In politics, this is called budgetary "treading water" leaving the mess for the next administration to clean up

     
  • At 10/15/2007 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It is just so hard for government bureaucrats and elected officials to wrap their minds around the idea of financial belt tightening. They just automatically get a bigger belt without a critical evaluation of what works and what doesn't work.

     
  • At 10/19/2007 12:17 AM, Anonymous Cliff said…

    I wonder about the heavy cuts to mental health. Isn't there something about keeping people who provide services closest to the people? It would probably be good to get rid of the $100,000 bureaucrat who drinks coffee while checking on his portfolio. We need to keep those $25,000 aids who take care of my crazy grandmother who sad to say, has forgotten who I am.

     
  • At 3/10/2008 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hi im billy bo bobio waz up

     
  • At 4/03/2008 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The state needs to trim the fat, not cut spending on public safety. There needs to be some attention given to how much VA spends to incarcerate people....how many really need to be behind bars? How much does it cost taxpayers to keep one inmate locked up per day? There are so many things wrong with pay scales here and across this country....ie: Newport News Superintendent of Schools paid $180K a year; a "new" Sheriff's Deputy is paid only $27,540 (and he/she puts their life on the line in the line of duty). Fair? Equitable? I think not!! Just my opinion.

     
  • At 8/30/2008 2:38 AM, Blogger sandy said…

    The Commonwealth Iconoclast site is dedicated to covering issues relevant to the commonwealth of virginia. The commonwealth iconoclast is blacksburg becoming.
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