VIRGINIA STATE BUDGET CRISIS
Governor gets tough on out of control spending... maybe.
Drastic times call for big sacrifices.
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.