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Let’s play cut that budget. 31 March, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Action Item, Budget, Economic Policy, State.
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Our leaders in state government are grappling for ways to keep government afloat.  I think the revenue shortfall will not be as bad as now projected any more than it was as good as projected 3 months ago.  Nonetheless, they are the best numbers we have and we have to make tough decisions.  Our leaders could use fresh ideas.  Let’s play cut that budget.

Here are my top ten in no order of priority.

Repeal the  new prevailing wage law because it is not the real prevailing wage.  I am all for a decent living wage in government contracts, but it makes no sense to cancel projects and have no wages.  Balance is a good thing.

Allow more competition in the state supplier list by opening it up to new suppliers every quarter for mundane items and simplify the process.  Many times it is cheaper to go to Sam’s or Staples than buy from the state’s approved list.  If a company can come up with a great deal, why make them wait a year or more to offer it.

Let’s get a performance audit of the Medicaid plan and the SChip program.  I don’t want to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.  I just want to find where the system is working and where it is not.

Sentencing reform would help us keep the dangerous people incarcerated and eliminate silly mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenders.  Drug rehabilitation would be money better spent than mandatory minimum sentences.  Our prison system is one of the fastest growing portions of our budget yet we aren’t much safer.

Sorry, but a salary freeze has to be a given.  Slight increases in employee premium shares for  dependent health care seem unavoidable for now.  That is painful for me to even write, but it is better than job or hour cuts.

Stop spending tax money for open spaces and help the counties establish Transfer of Development Rights banks.  The key to making it work is for the cities to cooperate.  We need to rebuild our cities not artificially build town centers in our counties.  Livable Delaware is a failed experiment which we can no longer afford.

Deregulate school construction.  Let’s allow schools to save money in construction by making sure schools are safe not dictating every detail. Why force prevailing wage on the schools?  Why not allow steel buildings and cut the cost by as much as 2/3’s.  Why stop a district from planning for obvious growth?

Now let me borrow a couple from Dave Burris of the Delaware Taxpayers’ coalition.  I agree that we need a performance audit of state government.  Many of State Auditor Tom Wagner’s old recommendations are still on the shelf.  Let’s find which ones are still relevant.

I also agree that we need to invite the citizens in the process with a lot more transparency.  A good start would be putting the proposed budget out and on line 5 days before the vote and the bond bill 3 days before the deadline. 

Finally, Let’s re-energize the  process.   First, we need an active sunset committee which asks of each program over the next two years, does this program fit into the purpose of state government, is it fulfilling its goals, is it effective.  Second, take the budget into a committee of the whole with a rule which allows members to offer budget efficiencies or new proposals only by offsetting costs.  Third, let’s set up a temporary DEFAC style committee for economic growth.  Let’s get some economic, business, and community experts to recommend some approaches for the future.

Your turn!

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The Real Story of Hillary Clinton–the War Hero 31 March, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Uncategorized.
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Comments from Mike Protack, candidate for Governor 23 March, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Election 2008, State.
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  “Leadership for a Better Delaware
 
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mike Protack said Thursday he would support sports gambling in Delaware and dedicate the estimated $28 million profits to public education.
 
Protack, 50, of Hockessin, made his remarks during a 25-minute preview to the Democratic gubernatorial debate on education between Lt. Gov. John Carney Jr. and State Treasurer Jack Markell.
Debate organizers chose to focus the main debate on the Democratic primary contenders and held a separate session with Protack, who fielded questions from John Taylor of the Delaware Public Policy Institute and Alison Kepner, education editor for The News Journal.
The Grand in Wilmington, scene of the debate, was empty for Protack’s segment, but video of his statements and answers to questions are available on www.delawareonline.com.
“I think it would be more appropriate to have all three of us here, but it has been billed as a Democratic primary event,” he said. “So would I rather have a heated primary or what I had tonight? What I had tonight. The only thing I lose out on is the 500 people who will be sitting here later.”
Protack made his comment about sports gaming when he was asked if he would support a tax increase to pay for reforms of the public school system in Delaware.
He said he supports not reform of the school system, but a “transformation” of the school system, and said he advocates the work of the Vision 2015 panel of experts who have been developing plans and piloting programs designed to give Delaware “world-class” schools by 2015.
“The business community wants change, parents want change and students deserve it,” he said. “Now is the time to act.”
Protack said he supports full funding for alternative schools for disruptive students and supports state funding for capital projects of charter schools, which are publicly funded but are neither structured nor operated by districts.
“My concern is about the students,” he said, when asked if he was concerned that charter schools would draw students from the rest of the public school system. “As governor, education is the largest budget item. Yes, some parents will decide to go a different route, but this is about children, not institutions.”
Protack agrees with most respondents to a recent poll by the Rodel Foundation that the state should assume all funding for public schools rather than rely on property taxes. If the property assessment system is not changed, he said, he would support a statewide reassessment but change the tax rate to make the taxes collected equal to the present amount.

He also would support consolidating the state’s 19 districts to four — one for each county and one vo-tech district.
“The technology is there to do many administrative functions more efficiently,” he said.
He would do away with the 10-year-old Delaware Student Testing Program, opting instead for an “off-the-shelf” test that would produce faster results and allow more frequent, smaller testing periods.
Protack said if he were governor he would consider a secretary of education who did not have a background as an educator, naming WSFS chief Skip Schoenhals and Charter School of Wilmington President Ron Russo as people who would do a good job.
Protack said he came from a family in which education was not a high priority. His grandparents were illiterate, he said, and his father was a dropout. Protack said he and his wife, Mary Ann, decided to make education a high value in their home. Their oldest son Clint will graduate from Medical School in two months and will do his surgery residency at Yale and their youngest son graduates from High School this year.

Their sons went to public school for their early elementary years, then moved into Catholic schools for the religious education offered there.
Protack is a graduate of William Penn High School and the University of Delaware. He is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and now works as a Captain for Delta Airlines.”

Another example of our tax money being misspent in Education 22 March, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Education, State.
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Children believe what their schools teach them. I have found that to be a scary thought over the years. We wonder why our children fall behind the world. They are not dumb. They work hard, we spend a lot educating them, and our teachers, as a group, are dedicated beyond just doing their job. The teachers are still not paid well enough, but we have made great strides to ensure teacher compensation is now competitive to many other fields when adjusted for hours spent. We are reducing class size and adding technology. What’s wrong?

I think there are many things wrong, but let’s start with the most basic of all tools–textbooks. One of the nation’s top text book company is Houghton Mifflin. A recent audit in Texas (The Dallas Morning News Nov. 16, 2007)found 86,000 textbook errors in the Math series. I haven’t found the history texts much better in my personal experience. The second grade textbook says Abigail Adams was married to Sam Adams not John Adams. They even have them in side by side pictures and make a big deal about her importance as a founding mother. I agree with her profound importance. Two Presidents sought her input Washington and Adams, mostly Adams. How she did that while married to Sam, I don’t know. It might be easier to understand if you know that she was married to John Adams. Their reading series is 17 points worse in results on the AYP than Open Court.

I don’t just fault one publisher, 109,263 errors were found in the Math textbooks in Texas with Houghton Mifflin having 79% of them. What is amazing is that they are still selected. My search for reasons is incomplete. The publisher is a big donor to community charities, partners with the NEA, and is cheap. I am sure that we would not go bargain basement to save a dollar or two a book; would we?

My problem is that the system just keeps ignoring this year after year. We had this same type of problem a decade ago and it still exists. I can show were this publisher had these problems back in the late ’80’s. They still get the contracts. Why should they care? The system still gives them the money. It doesn’t seem to care. Textbooks are not selected by quality, but by some other factor. What is it? The kids are caught between the complacency of the corporate bureaucracy and the political bureaucracy.

In Delaware, it seems many of our standards are geared to conform with this publisher. I want us to focus on what our children need to know. It seems like the system hasn’t gotten there yet. Our Department of Education seems to love this publisher. I can’t explain it, but I do know that we will never have the schools we desire until we get the basics right.

The Delaware Job Magnet is Waning 20 March, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Economic Policy, State.
1 comment so far

Our state has a relatively low unemployment rate.  This is good news.  The bad news is that according to the State’s economic report written in 2007, our job growth has been weakening consistently over the last decade and a half. We are in the bottom 1/3 of the nation in job creation. This is evidence that we are running on the fumes of the DuPont reforms 30 years ago.  It is time to refuel the tank.  Here is the money quote from the report.

Looking at the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS), the resident employment data for the state, Delaware’s economy looks rather healthy. The annual average unemployment rate dropped from 4.0 percent in 2005 to 3.6 percent in 2006, and it has been even lower in 4 out of the first 5 months of 2007. All of these rates are substantially below the national unemployment rate. As measured by this data series, employment growth has averaged 1.89 percent per year in Delaware over the last 30 years. It was 1.88 percent in 2005, and 2.12 percent in 2006, and has only just fallen below that, averaging 1.67 percent through May, 2007. On the other hand, a look at job growth in the state yields a different picture. Delaware has added jobs at a 2.06 percent annual rate since 1976. It last surpassed that rate in 2004, and growth has steadily slowed since then, to a current 0.82 percent rate in 2007. Growth over the last 18 months has been positive, but only about half the long-term rate – not enough to be considered healthy.Delaware’s 1.18 percent job growth from 2005 to 2006 placed it just in front of the bottom one-third of states in this regard. There were 33 states with faster job growth, and 16 with slower job growth. With the exception of Louisiana and Mississippi, the two states hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, all of the other states with slower job growth are contiguous and located in the northeastern part of the US. The states with job growth slower than Delaware’s were all of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, then Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Delawareans seem to be like the proverbial frog in gradually heating water. The Minner-Carney regime is slowly strangling job creation. Will we feel the heat before we are doomed?

Is Money the Root of Evil? 3 March, 2008

Posted by stoptaxing in Uncategorized.
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The Left in this country has perpetrated a proposition that Corporations are evil.  That rich people should have more taxes because they don’t need their money.  They seem to make you think that having money is the root of all evil.  (The Christian scripture says the “love of money” while speaking frequently of wise money management.) Where are William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman when you need them? 

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a new book Thou Shalt Prosperin which he reminds us that God wants us to prosper by serving others.  Joel Olsteen and Robert Schuller also have written books reminding us that success is good.  What these gentlemen have done is strip away the moral foundation of poverty industry.

The work of the late, great Milton Friedman and his wife Rose have decimate the economic theory of the poverty industry.  They reminded us  that the business of business is business.  The economy is not a pie being divided up.  It is a living growing community which prospers as we trade and serve one another.  As Zig Ziglar said, “You can have anything you want in life, as long as you help enough other people get what they want in life”.

Karl Marx had a different point of view.  He believed the rich stole the wealth from the poor.  That may have been true of slave masters and nobility, but it is not true in a capitalist economy.  Wealth is a reward for bettering the lives of one’s fellow humans.  Money is moral.

This is fast becoming one of the three foundational differences in this election.  The countries which reject this proposition are mired in poverty –Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe come to mind.  As Zimbabwe proved, no matter how well intentioned, you can not fix the ills of the past by stealing from innocent people in the present.

Some are calling for punishing the big oil companies, raising taxes on the upper wage earners, trying to slap controls on executive compensation, and price controls on medicines.  These not only won’t work, they are just plain wrong.  It is the business of government to provide a sound infrastructure, a honest marketplace, security, and tools for an educated populace.  It is not the business of government to meddle in people’s fundamental right of property.  It is not the business of government to micromanage winners and losers in the economy.  Let it be, let it alone.

The choice is clear.  A controlled and command based economy which will not prosper its people in the long run or a freedom based economy.