The Delaware Online story covers the initial presentation of Governor Jack Markell's budget plans quite well.
The plan, unfortunately, does not reflect difficult choices or even a progressive approach to governing: instead--disappointingly--it embodies a formula destined to drive the State further into debt and to push out thousands of good people.
1) Markell has determined on an across-the-board pay cut of 8% for all state employees, including teachers. In addition, he's demanding that they pick up another 2% salary cut in health-care premiums, amounting to a 10% pay cut overall.
This cut will drop, for example, a teacher in Lake Forest with six years' experience, from $38,327 to an effective $34,494; it will drop first-year teachers' salaries in many districts back to well below $30,000.
This cut will cost the average teacher in Delaware more than $5,300.
According to Poverty in America's Living Wage Calculator for New Castle County, Delaware, this would place virtually any family dependent on a single teacher's salary below the living wage for the State.
But it gets worse....
He also intended (and for this you have to visit the GingerGibson blog at DOL) to (a) make all teacher in-service days unpaid (but presumably still required) and to (b) eliminate the State-share benefit for married state employees.
Go back to that example of a teacher's family falling below the living wage line: if you have a married teacher couple, what you have done to them is also knocked an additional $4-6,000 out of their salaries for health insurance premiums.
Think about teachers on Food Stamps.
Forget teachers, and ask yourself about secretaries, clerks, cafeteria workers....
There are 17,431 State employees outside the school districts whose salaries and benefits Governor Markell intends to cut. In effect, he is cutting the pay of seven of Delaware's top twenty-five largest employers (because State and school systems are reported separately).
What will this do to Delaware's ability to retain qualified people?
2) At the same time, the Governor plans to raise income taxes for all individuals and couples making more than $60K, which means that State-share couples (two incomes from State employment) will not only take a 10% pay cut, but also see their income taxes raised!
Yes, cuts are necessary, but as the NewsJournal opined just today: across-the-board cuts are idiotic, and involve the failure to make tough choices.
Many senior management jobs could have been eliminated or consolidated, as I have previous argued: the entire position of Secretary of Homeland Security should be eliminated and folded back into the Commandant of the State Police.
Likewise, there are whole segments at the Department of Education and Department of Transportation that could easily be eliminated.
If we are cutting the salaries of State employees, what about the costs paid out to contractors under the prevailing wage law?
Sorry, folks, I know that the usual suspects will be out in force saying, "Do you have anything better to offer?" or "Only un-American people would resist tax increases at a time like this," but here's the truth:
Governor Markell does not have the political capital to sell a 10% effective pay cut for all State employees, particularly with most of those State employees being unionized. And he knows it.
This is not really a budget. This is a political stunt designed to open budget negotiations with the legislature, intended to get them to authorize much larger tax increases in lieu of these draconian salary cuts.
That's the reality here.