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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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