VACostCutting

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Budget Amendments

At the risk of causing a ruckus, I've been looking at some of the member requests for amendments to HB 30, the 2006 appropriations bill.

It is to be expected that this bill would draw a lot of attention from individual members. But what is unexpected -- and even shocking, to this writer -- are the number of proposed amendments that would grant state monies to private, nonprofit organizations for general operating purposes, annual funds, construction, promotion, etc.

I've written about this on my own blog, and in one of the comments, there was this:

"Nor shall the General Assembly make any like appropriation to any charitable institution which is not owned or controlled by the Commonwealth; the General Assembly may, however, make appropriations to nonsectarian institutions for the reform of youthful criminals and may also authorize counties, cities, or towns to make such appropriations to any charitable institution or association."

Va. Constitution Va. Con. Art. 4 ยง 16 (1971)

Looking over some of these requests, it seems to me that many of them fly in the face of Art. 4, Section 16.

If the Legislature is genuinely serious about reducing costs, one of the first places to begin is with these amendments.

8 Comments:

  • Norman,

    You bring up a very good point. Some will add to the long term cost structure of government operations and some add capital costs.

    Several points to discuss here.
    1 - the amount of money in the biennium budget cannot increase due to these amendments unless there is a rate increase or unexpected growth in the economy. So, what these amendments do is shift money or rather request that money be shifted to these amendments. THANK GOD FOR A BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT AND LINE ITEM VETO!!!
    2- some save money in capital and operating like the one I am carrying on Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind.
    3 - many members turn down many requests from their constituents and many feel that their constituents have the right to make their case in front of appropriations. Same holds true for the number of bills that are put in during session.

    Great question though on the constitutionality of some appropriations.

    As a reminder, the Cost Cutting Caucus is very different from the Appropriations Committee in that we, as a Caucus, do not address individual budget items as that is the job of the Approps committee.
    The CCC tasks ourselves with primarily the operations of government and long term structural transformation.

    By Anonymous Chris Saxman, at 1/26/2006 2:58 PM  

  • The Cost Cutting Caucus is a nickel and dime operation as compared with the spending of the Appropriations Committee. You guys are trying to save a few thousands here and there while the AC spends millions. That's like paying only the minimum amount on a credit card each month. You're just spinning your wheels. Its a no-win situation for the taxpayer.

    By Anonymous Uncle Lester, at 1/26/2006 7:46 PM  

  • the Cost Cutting Caucus is very different from the Appropriations Committee in that we, as a Caucus, do not address individual budget items as that is the job of the Approps committee.

    So does that mean that Norm should keep his mouth shut, or that he can point out pork but the cost-cutting caucus won't do anything about it?

    By Blogger Chris Porter, at 1/26/2006 9:12 PM  

  • It seems to me that the CCC is more concerned with structural budget changes that will save money each and every year. They do not look at individual things that are one time projects and try to figure out which ones are good and bad. As Chris said, that the job of Appropriations.

    By Blogger GOPHokie, at 1/26/2006 9:35 PM  

  • I appreciate and fully agree with the focus on containing long-term, structural costs.

    But these budget amendments speak directly to the issue of cost and even more directly to the culture of spending.

    Overe the long term, these requests, if approved, create in their recipients an expectation that the grants will be renewed, increased or expanded into other areas. What began as a one-time infusion for a single project becomes a permanent line-item in the organization's budget...and that necessarily means they will return to the source (the state) year after year to fill that budget line.

    What began as a single grant thus becomes a long-term cost to the state.

    Multiply this over serveral organizations, and the long-term costs becomes very real. And the ability to reduce or even eliminate these costs becomes more difficult because the spending has created a vested, vocal interest.

    To separate appropriations from cost-cutting is self defeating. They are two sides of the same coin.

    By Blogger Norman, at 1/27/2006 8:02 AM  

  • Again, Norman you are right on point and I do not wish to confuse people on the focus of the CCC. We all will be able to vote on individual budget amendments on the day the budget is adopted.

    My point was this - while we do not review and make recommendations on individual amendments because that is the actual function of Approps Committee, we can take issue with some at the time when they are before us. Some of us do go through the amendments, but given the time we have between when we receive them and when we vote on them is about one day. That is one reason why started this blog. We need more eyes focused on these issues.

    The Appropriations Committee has done an excellent job of focusing our resources to the stated policy objectives. I will post on this later.

    I hope I did not leave the impression that these things are not important or that your opinions are not important. My point is and was that the CCC is focused on long term structural changes in state government that produce better services at a lower cost.

    We could hold a press conference to show how a particular arts grant is ridiculous, but in doing so we would lose focus on key legislation like HB1297 which creates the Commonwealth Realignment Commission. The CRC would actually have tremendous power to consolidate and realign state government which would produce huge savings to the taxpayers.

    While we don't want to lose sight of the forest for the trees, we do intend on trying to knock out some trees.

    As far as being a nickel and dime operation, we are not even that since we have no budget at all.

    Today, I am meeting with Governor Chief of Staff Bill Leighty to talk about the Enterprise Application Program which will redesign our hardware and software systems in the agencies and departments saving the taxpayers millions of dollars a year. The Cost Cutting Caucus will be given a full briefing on this Thursday at 4pm and you are cordially invited to attend. There will be a post on this later as well.

    By Anonymous Chris Saxman, at 1/27/2006 8:21 AM  

  • Chris,

    No offense taken.

    I just want to raise awareness -- and maybe even a few second thoughts among some Legislators -- as to the potential long-term impact amendments like these may have on overall govenment costs.

    And if you need help knocking out a few trees, I got a sweet new chainsaw for Christmas...

    By Blogger Norman, at 1/27/2006 1:44 PM  

  • Norman,

    I have found that non invasive surgical removal is a far better way to accomplish the aforementioned. If, however, we are able to pass into law HB1297 Commonwealth Realignment Commission, then the more appropriate analogy would be much larger hardware than a chain saw. Think Caterpillar, not Stihl. Komatsu, not Poulan. But in a nice way of course.

    By Anonymous Chris Saxman, at 1/27/2006 7:01 PM  

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