Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bluffing and bloviating

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette has an excellent editorial this morning, entitled Who's Bluffing?, about Governor Patrick's latest pledge to make the cuts necessary to get the state budget under control.

The reference to "bluffing" in the title refers to Governor Patrick's threat to cut up to 2,000 state employees if unions do not give him cost-saving concessions. Those talks are on-going. Skeptics might be forgiven the assumption that Patrick is indeed 'bluffing,' since despite all of his talk of painful cuts since the beginning of the current recession, it remains the case that the executive branch of state government has added thousands of employees since Patrick took the reins.

The Telegram & Gazette correctly points out that good ideas for true cost-saving reforms - not just cuts - have been on the table for quite some time, many of them regularly offered by the invaluable Pioneer Institute. In addition to repealing the Pacheco Law, a legislative abomination that hamstrings any and all efforts to outsource non-essential government work to the private sector, which in other states saves millions, the T&G lists these common-sense Pioneer gems:
•Establish a sliding scale for public employees’ eligibility for retiree health-care benefits, in place of the current system that grants such benefits after just 10 years of service.

•Retain the approximately 1,100 state workers added to Health and Human Services budgets since 2004, but trim other levels of state employment back to 2004 levels.

•Cap annual spending increases and segregate capital gains revenues in annual budgets.

•Halt the practice of spending rainy-day funds in years with budget surpluses.
Isn't that last one a beaut? We are told that the state budget is currently over $600 million in the red, and that this state of affairs is a direct result of the national recession. We are trusted to forget that, consistent with 'the practice of spending rainy-day funds in years with budget surpluses,' Beacon Hill sucked considerably more than $600 million out of the so-called 'stabilization fund' in the first two years of the Patrick Administration, when the state budget was more than 'stable.' And still, presented with undeniable proof of their folly, lawmakers have been unwilling to pass a law prohibiting such rank irresponsibility in the future. That unwillingness to address true, relatively simple reforms demonstrates that when it comes to their supposed efforts to control the budget, the rhetoric coming from Beacon Hill is as much bloviation as bluffing.

And by the way, about those negotiations Governor Patrick is having with public employee unions? Take another look at the article I liked above, and pay attention to the specific language used by AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes. He recognizes the need for "concessions," but:
“If sacrifices are made now there has to be some opportunity later, when things improve, to restore the kinds of contributions the unions made to solve the problem,” Haynes said.
The ever-present union credo: 'you give something to get something.' In this case, you can bet the "something" Haynes intends to get goes well beyond an agreement from the Governor not to lay off his members. He says as much, referring to "some opportunity later." So even if the Governor gets the unions to agree to furloughs to save some money now, you can bet the state will pay double for them down the line.

1 comment:

  1. Republican House and Senate leaders offered roughly a billion dollars worth of cost saving amendments back in May of 2009. Of course virtually all were defeated on straight party line votes.

    None of them entailed the cutting of local aid or slashing vital programs that Governor Patrick and the Democratic Leadership are doing now with more to come.



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