DomeLight by Jim Zachary

DomeLight by Jim Zachary

The state budget process, including how current budget cuts are being calculated, should be completely open and transparent.

As bureaucrats sharpen their pencils and do the math to get to Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget cut numbers, they must be honest brokers and not use rank and file employees as human shields.

Kemp increased spending last year by giving very visible pay raises to Georgia teachers and now department heads throughout state government are saying they will have to layoff employees, eliminate positions and require employee furloughs in order to meet the governor’s budget cut mandate.

Irony.

Or politics.

Or irony and politics.

The men and women working in state offices should not be political pawns in a game of state budget chess.

While the governor’s call to cut by 4 percent raises serious questions about whether the state could afford the teacher pay raises and additional spending in the budget this past year, the proposals being bandied about raise questions about how circumspect department heads are being when it comes to finding wasteful, or at least unnecessary, spending before calling for layoffs and furloughs.

Department head, or executive travel, entertainment and discretionary spending should be the first things on the chopping block. 

Any budget lines marked “Other,” “Other Services,” “Professional Services” and similar nondescript labels should be gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

After all discretionary spending is eliminated if wages, salaries and benefits are the only places left to cut in order to meet the Kemp mandate, then those cuts should be top down not bottom up. 

Long before hourly wage employee layoffs are considered, upper management structure and the wages for the highest salaried positions should be looked at. There are greater savings to be realized by looking at the highest salaried positions and when it comes to providing basic government services, generally it is lower paid hourly workers who are the real service providers.

Quickly floating layoffs and furloughs seems much more like political posturing than government right-sizing. 

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is CNHI’s regional editor for its Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas newspapers and editor of the Valdosta Daily Times. He is vice president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

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