Monday, March 23, 2009

The cost of putting off tough discussions and tough decisions

Hube has this "Dopey WNJ letter of the day/week/month/millennium" feature, which generally does crack me up, but--just occasionally--one of those letter writers actually gets it.

Such is the case with Roger C Williams of Bear:

I am outraged at New Castle County leadership and their plan to raise taxes by 25 percent while cutting services across the board.

We pay for services to be provided road maintenance, parks, libraries, police and fire protection, etc.

We are also responsible to pay for the head count needed to provide those services and upkeep for them. However, personnel costs are over 75 percent of the county’s budget. At this level, the personnel budget is clearly disproportionate to spending in other areas.

If that comes in the form of a enormously bloated payroll, I am perfectly fine with laying off employees.

This may sound heartless, and it is tragic for the hard-working people. They are victims of terrible management of county head count and capacity, that went unnoticed during the boom in the earlier part of this decade.

County Executive Chris Coons has got it all wrong.

Don’t cut spending on things taxpayers are paying for. Cut spending on the positions we never asked for and probably never needed.

The key figure here is 75% of the county budget being employee costs, as opposed to 46% for the State. Obviously, the New Castle County budget is way out of whack here, and needs to be trimmed.

This raises the tough issue that Chris Coons and Jack Markell continue to try to avoid: should we continue to pay for positions that are unnecessary because the government has suddenly decided that its primary function is to keep as many people employed as possible?

Putting off this discussion will not do anybody any favors. The WNJ editorial this morning notes:

Yet even when the budget goes into operation July 1, the financial crisis threatening Delaware won't be solved. In fact, if unemployment continues to rise and revenues dip ever further, the budget will have to be made even tougher.

At some point the decline in revenue will make the decision to maintain all government employees--regardless of salary and benefit cuts--financially unsupportable.


Anonymous said...

Easy to say, Steve, when the job cut is not your job!

There are alternatives, like reduced hours and reduced pay. At least then folks will have some income and benefits, while not on the unemployment roll, while continuing to perform public service.

What is wrong with that?

Perry Hood

Steven H. Newton said...

My job and my wife's are both at risk; we are both State employees.

So don't give me that "easy to say" crap.

"What's wrong with that?"

Perry, either you did not read the previous FIVE posts explaining in detail and with numbers what's wrong with that, or you are only interested in parroting talking points.

Which is it?

You can disagree with my position all you want, but don't ever suggest that I didn't provide detailed information to support it, when that information is openly available for you to read.

Anonymous said...

Like I said, Steve, "when the job cut is not your job".

I hope for your sake that you and your wife do not lose your jobs.

You did not answer my specific question. Unfortunately, if you did address it in one of your op/eds, I missed it or do not remember it. Sorry!

I maintain that the alternatives suggestion makes sense.

I did not mean to suggest that you did not already answer my question.

Anyway, did you specifically address this suggestion in one of your op/eds?

Perry Hood

PS: The "talking points" are my points which I put forward for discussion purposes.

Anonymous said...

Steve, just for the record, I agree with the sentiments you expressed here:

That said, my suggestion on alternatives would not be confined to the $40k folks, nor did I say so!

In fact, I would support a progressive approach to reducing salaries, and eliminating upper level jobs that are unneeded. I do think job/public services preservation must be high priority, otherwise we could cause more problems by invoking unintended consequences.

Perry Hood