Tuesday, June 22, 2010

All this Republican talk about slashing state spending is giving me a headache

Jeremy Pelzer reported an astonishing fact in yesterday's Casper Star-Tribune -- Republican Gubernatorial candidates want to cut the state budget.

Some more than others.

Can you say Ron Micheli?

According to Pelzer, Micheli sees the budget as a growing threat. Kind of on the order of nuclear annihilation, unstoppable oil spills, F5 tornadoes, and another eight years of a Democrat in the Gov's seat.

On the campaign trail, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Micheli has aimed his sights on what he says is a growing threat -- the Wyoming state budget.

The state budget's tripled in the past seven years, he warns in forums and campaign stops around the state, and the current level of spending is simply unsustainable.

"I just know that we cannot sustain the level of growth of government that we have now," he said. "And I don't know what the answer is. Should it be cut in half? I don't know that. Should it be cut 30 percent? Again, I don't know that."

Micheli points to a 2009 report by the ideologically conservative but non-partisan American Legislative Exchange Council that concludes Wyoming's state spending trends can't continue on a sustained basis given current revenue levels.

To reduce spending, Micheli said, he would appoint fiscal conservatives to head state agencies, offer incentives to state agencies and employees to find ways to cut costs, and move to a "zero-based" budgeting process in which every new state budget is drawn from scratch instead of starting from the previous budget's spending levels.

Any major budget reduction would likely require cutting the state's employee payroll. Micheli said he favors reducing state jobs through attrition instead of layoffs -- though he hasn't ruled the latter out.

Full disclosure here -- I'm a state employee. When Micheli talks about layoffs, he's talking about me and my colleagues. So I take it personally. When he talks about appointing fiscal conservatives to head state agencies, I cringe. What does he means -- fiscal conservatives? His own coterie of hitmen from the ranks of the Tea Party? Most of the heads of state agencies that I know already are fiscal conservatives. Many are Democrats but most are not. If you wanted each Wyoming state agency headed up by a Dem, we'd still be waiting for slots to be filled eight years after Gov Dave took office.

We all know what Micheli means -- he wants Republicans who hate gubment to be in charge of the government. Remember how well that worked out under eight years of George W. Bush and Cheney and all of his gubment-hating, oil-slurping pals? I can refresh your memory if you forget. Not sure if I have enough time or enough electrons to do so in this space. But I can try.

What do Micheli's three opponents on the Repub side say about budget-cutting?

"I think that we are in pretty good shape right now, although I think that there's always room to take a look at individual agencies and see how we're doing," said GOP gubernatorial candidate Matt Mead. "It's maybe easy to talk about it in terms of political rhetoric, but it's much more difficult when you actually have to get there and make a decision."

House Speaker Colin Simpson has proposed a "sunset advisory commission" that would evaluate the policies of and need for each state agency. Similarly, GOP candidate Rita Meyer touts increasing the number of audits of state agencies and programs.


Colin Simpson said even Micheli's assertion that the state budget has tripled since 2003 is misleading. While state revenues have tripled during that time, Simpson said, the Legislature put much of that money toward savings and one-time capital projects.

"Taken out of context, budget numbers can be dangerously deceptive," said State Auditor Meyer. "So you have to be very thoughtful when you're looking at budget numbers, when you're talking about growth."

Read more about Wyoming politics and government at http://tribtown.trib.com/wypolitics.

I wonder how many times Micheli will talk about slashing state budgets and eliminating state employees and wasteful government spending when he talks to Cheyenne audiences? I did hear him speak on the steps of the Capitol a month ago and he did indeed talk about cutting state government. But that was a Tea Party crowd. They know that gubment on all levels is wasteful -- and probably sinful.

Now where my Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security and veteran's benefits at?


Anonymous said...

Now I will have to seriously consider voting for Micheli. As shown in California, unchecked spending (especially on over compensated employees who are unwilling to accept fiscal reality) is a serious threat to the State

Michael Shay said...

Your funeral -- and probably the state's.