Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Governor O'Malley's Budget Cuts

Yesterday Governor Martin O'Malley announced $454 million in budget cuts, including $17 million in savings resulting from 205 layoffs and the elimination of 159 vacant positions. You can read the outlines of the cuts here. To close the anticipated budget gap of $1.5 billion, there definitely will need to be more trimming of people and programs. Arguably, Governor O'Malley should have done more trimming earlier and even now.

Laying off workers and cutting services is never easy. People's lives are affected. But the reality is that Maryland's budget has gotten bloated, with excessive spending on too many programs and entitlements that might be nice if money grew on trees or if taxpayers were cash cows. But money doesn't and taxpayers aren't.

In a Washington Post news article on the day the cuts were announced, Patrick Moran, director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Maryland, is quoted to the effect that his union is "disappointed by the governor's decision to balance the budget on the backs of state workers and residents…Even in these tough times, it is essential that we remember our priorities in Maryland and that the people of this state come first." Very nice sentiments, indeed -- if you like platitudes.

What does it mean to say that "the people of this state" come first and the governor's proposing to balance the budget "on the backs of state workers and residents"? Isn't that all of us? Of course, cuts are going to affect state workers and residents – because the state government employs workers to provide services to residents, even including many residents who are not lawfully in the country. Does Mr. Moran have some cuts in mind for Maryland's budget that would affect only residents of Mars, or at least only those in other states? Or that would affect only government workers in states other than Maryland?

I seriously doubt it. The point is, rhetoric like Mr. Moran's is not very helpful – indeed, it's harmful -- because it implies no tough decisions need be made to trim the deficit. They do. The time for smoke and mirrors is rapidly drawing to a close, and the public will be best served by straight talk.