Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bill Crawford: Budget brings ashes & switches

Merry Christmas state employees. The budget proposed by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn, and their budget committee colleagues targets you. If you get to keep your job, they want you to work harder and do more for no more pay. The budget is bad for your retirement (PERS) too. Oh, but you will get a tiny tax cut.

The proposed budget is $195 million less than the twice-cut current budget and cuts nearly every agency. It would eliminate funding for almost 2,000 currently unfilled positions and remove civil-service protection to make it easier for agency heads to fire workers.

Gunn warned agencies “to pay strong attention to this budget.” They will be expected to operate “at the leanest levels possible.”

This is, in effect, government by strangulation. Republicans have a stranglehold on state government and will do whatever it takes to strangle spending so they can cut taxes. Doesn’t matter if you’re already a high performing, efficient agency or not, you’re getting cut (except for K-12 and a handful of special programs).

Not long ago these same legislators touted performance-based budgeting, where high performers would be sustained and low performers eliminated. So much for that.

Yes, the controversial phased-in business and income tax cuts passed last year are built into this budget.

Emily Wagster Pettus with the Associated Press commented, “Mississippi’s economy continues to grow slowly, and tax cuts are projected to reduce the money that state government collects to pay for schools, mental health care, Medicaid, county health clinics, restaurant inspections, the state Crime Lab, casino regulators, county livestock shows and other services.” Universities and community colleges face 6.7% cuts.

How does this affect PERS? Besides investments, the retirement system depends on wage and employment growth. This budget strangles both.

Cutting government spending, and staffing, through performance-based budgeting is one thing. Strangling the good parts of government along with the wasteful parts in order to afford untimely tax cuts is quite another.

Gov. Bryant seems to recognize this. In his budget proposal he calls for the merger of “state agencies, boards and commissions” and the consolidation of “certain functions across state government.”

The Governor notes that mergers and consolidations don’t generate immediate savings, but can have major savings over time. That and elimination of wasteful and duplicative programs is a far better approach than strangling all of government.

On the other hand, he and legislative leaders want to strangle Medicaid which provides health and nursing home care for the poor in a state whose national health ranking is once again dead last. Since the federal government matches state Medicaid funding by a 4.9 to 1 ratio, the proposed cuts would reduce federal matching funds by $106 to $117 million. Paradoxically, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is working to make expanded Medicaid matching funds available without Obamacare strings.

So, state government’s stocking stuffers this year look to be tax cuts for the better off, spending cuts for the hard up, and ashes for state employees.

Merry Christmas!

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

That is what I have had to do with social security for 3 straight years after working for 45 years.

Anonymous said...

While I have respected and personally liked Bill Crawford for years, his crying of croc tears for these poor state employees, while he continues to beat on the current GOP leadership for cutting budgets and lowering taxes makes me question his role now. Is he trying to take over for the failing Bill Minor as the ultra-liberal columnist?

The 'poor state employee' that may see his position killed because the state is not going to continue to be all things to all people (like they were moving to during Crawford's one term in the legislature) can come join those of us that (1) don't have the same job security; (2) don't get higher paying positions, as claimed by these same employees; (3) certainly don't have the same benefits; and as noted by 1:52, haven't seen any increase in our Social Security for three years, and certainly don't get those really nice 13th checks that the legislature decided to give these poor employees in the late 90's. There are some retirees that are now getting more in retirement benefits a year from the state than they earned in any of their best years.

Cry for me later, Bill. Meanwhile, I'm thankful that the legislature is trying to bring under control an out-of-control state budget.

Anonymous said...

So, smart cuts vs dumb cuts is now liberal?

Watch The Org Charts said...

Merging agencies will accomplish nothing. Don't be fooled by the rhetoric. The immediate result will be the establishment of a multitude of 'deputy' this and 'deputy' that jobs at the 75-120,000 dollar pay range.

Eliminate a couple of Executive Directors, several Purchasing Agents, a Personnel Department head or two and a few other redundant roles, when merging takes place, and then create forty more high level exempt, buddy-deputy-executive director positions to be filled at the behest of the governor and his already appointed friends.

The Org Chart may appear flatter, but the bloat will still be there, if not increased.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Obtuse at 7:18; No, it's not smart vs dumb. It's imaginary vs real. There never have been any 'smart cuts' with state government leadership clowns in charge of the carving knives. If you think I'm wrong, please point to one or two.

Please don't go back and mention crap like Lester Spell cutting out a whole department of Jim Buck's unless you count all the new hacks Lester brought in to suck up the salaries of those he terminated.

Anonymous said...

So, performance based budgeting and the Texas model are crap. Thanks for the insight.

Model THIS 11:11 said...

All of these agencies, like their counterparts across the country, were initially formed using the military organization and management model. That worked well for fifty years. Now the decision makers have neither served in the military nor have any concept of how the model works or how to maintain it.

POCCC is a foreign concept, like chain of command, discipline and punishment.

Anonymous said...

Lot of great points on this thread

@ 9:59am - you are right, merging the agencies will make things worse. However, some of the very small commissions that involve one person and are nothing but political crony appointments, can probably be abolished and fall under DFA's purview.

@ 10:03am - good point, the Lester Spell argument by anti-government pundits is old and tired and the Republicans have 20+ years of running this shop now and they have no one to blame but themselves for the shortcomings.

@ 11:11am - in all honesty, performance budgeting works when you are a private corporation and you are trying to turn a profit. State Government agencies are not out to turn a profit - so what is there to measure? The state agencies have a basic purpose, make sure Mississippians daily lives function as smoothly as possible without any interruptions. But Phil Bryant, Tate Reeves, Phillip Gunn - have sold a bill of goods to Mississippians that our state government should be run like a business. When it should be run like a non-profit executing basic services, with very low operational costs.

@ 2:37pm - you are correct in regards to organization and management model. State Government was supposed to be a merit based system, with managers who use annual appraisals to measure the levels of work and competencies of their staff to keep the system, running at a premium. But when you add in the politics and political appointments of various positions, there goes the fluff.

It's all smoke and mirrors to remove certain people from the hiring process. Reroute government contracts to campaign donors, that's why you hear the constant screams for privatizing services. Its not to save tax payers money, but to choose winners and losers to those who donated to the office holders.

It's easy to agree with the notion you do not want government to be a job a creator, but it does help to keep unemployment levels at bay while the legislature helps to create a healthy business environment for private companies.

But the way things are trending now, it does not bode well for the Capitol metro area if the Heritage Foundation gets its way with Phil Bryant, Tate Reeves, Phillip Gunn and the Republican Super Majority in the legislature.

Anonymous said...

I'm a current state employee who has been in state government for over 10 years. I've taken a position with a private sector company and will be leaving in the next two to three weeks. I'm a "Worker Bee" not a typical bureaucrat. There are going to be a lot more like me leaving because we are tired of being at the mercy of a state legislature that really doesn't get it. When the educated "Worker Bees" like myself leave, what will the hive be left with? I'm not trying to put any of my fellow state employees down but the truth is the truth. My political affiliation is independent with a heavy conservative leaning. I'm personally OK with taxes not being lowered for myself at the peril of losing state services. Is there waste in state government, oh heck yeah!!!!!! I see it everyday. We have to get cronyism out of state government!

Ben Dover said...

CalPERS Cuts Pension Benefits For First Time

Anonymous said...

@ 1:29pm "Ben Dover"

California's Public Employee's retirement plan was way too generous.

Allowing people to retire at 55 years old, annual salary increases every year, the benefits were endless.

Mississippi's Public employee's retirement plan is ultra-conservative compared to the California plan. However, if the California plan was modeled similar to Mississippi's they would be in good shape; based on how the state legislature handles their personnel system in regards to salary increases and not eliminating positions at a whim.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:58am

well said.

They, Bryant-Reeves-Gunn, want the balloon to pop so they can redesign the system and plug in their buddies.

Anonymous said...

http://msbusiness.com/2016/12/bill-crawford-strangulation-budget-hits-state-employees-poor/

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