Monday, January 18, 2010

View From The Ditch Bank

BALANCE- Have you ever lost yours? Just a little trip and fall can hurt. A loss of balance causing a fall from the roof of a house is worse and losing your balance and falling from a high cliff would probably end in death. A loss of your bank balance can cause a financial death. Tomorrow, January 19, our State legislature meets to begin a 30 day session. This session is restricted to matters of State finance. And politicians being, uh well, politicians, it will be interesting to see just exactly what they will come up with that they spin into a financial necessity for the State while trying to balance the State budget. A budget that is over $700 million in the red. I want to tell you a true story. In the mid 1960's I worked for some time for a regional airline that came into our County Airport. At that airport there was a National Weather Service (NWS) station manned by a weather man named Don Jett. He worked 5 days a week, an 8 hour shift from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and was paid the princely sum of $10,000 a year. The NWS rented the small building he used for an office from the County for $500 a year and they had about $500 a year in telephone and other expenses. In 1967, I think, the U.S. government decided to balance the budget and advised all agency's to cut their budgets. So the NWS shut down several weather offices, including the one where Mr. Jett worked. I ask him if he was being laid off. He said no, he was being transferred to El Paso, Texas, but the shut down of his office would save the government $21,000 a year. I ask how and he said that the station was listed as a two man station, each earning $10,000 a year. The fact that only one man was there had no bearing. So, the station was closed, the County lost $500 a year in rent and utility company's lost a few dollars and the government saved $21,000 a year. Well, actually, to my uneducated point of view, they weren't actually paying the other man, and Mr. Jett still drew his salary, just in a different location, so to me the only actual savings was $1000 a year. The savings of $21,000 was just paper accounting. Now, our Governor put together a task force a few weeks ago to come up with a way to make the state government more efficient. Here is what they recommend. Combine the Public Education Department with the Higher Education Department. Join the Homeland Security Department with the Department of Public Safety. A state Commerce Department would be created by joining current departments of Economic Development, Labor, Tourism, Regulation and Licensing, Workers Compensation, Border Authority and the Spaceport Authority. Whew!I didn't know we even had all those departments. The Environment Department and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department could also be combined. The task force also recommended changes to the Medicaid benefits and public school funding that could save the State an estimated $110 Million a year. Now, since several State Employees are already slated to be laid off, and many vacancy's slated to go away unfilled, I think that when all these departments are combined, the current employees will go to the combined departments, and the savings will be paper accounting. While the politicians may balance the budget, will it be with actual money saved, or just a paper accounting that said it was saved. It will be interesting, and we will just have to wait and watch and see. And that's the View From The Ditch Bank.

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