Kitzhaber’s Cost Cutting Is Just Another Snow Job

Right From the Start

The Statesman Journal carried an article on Monday lauding Gov. Kitzhaber for attacking wasteful spending. The article began:

“State workers still might face deep cuts to wages and benefits to help balance Oregon’s budget, but it does appear that Gov. John Kitzhaber and the state legislature are interested in finding budget savings elsewhere, too.* * *

“A number of cost-cutting investigations or measures are either under way or nearing approval, including:

“’There’s real money there. We’re talking about millions of dollars, and it’s not hypothetical savings,’ said Gary Weeks, a former director of the Department of Administrative Services and the Department of Human Services, about the move to have agencies buy drugs under the state program.”

Even the state public employee unions have endorsed the cause:

 AFSCME Executive Director Ken Allen said he’s pleased that the state is undertaking an audit of no-bid service contracts for retired state workers, even though he personally doesn’t think the practice is widespread.

I don’t want to throw cold water on any effort to reduce government spending, but frankly, while there may be “millions” in savings, it is hardly a drop in the bucket when it comes to the real waste. This is more a publicity stunt to cover up increased spending for the next biennium than it is a serious effort to reduce government waste.

But you can expect that of politicians – particularly Democrat politicians – who think more spending is the cure for everything. The real puzzle is why the press fails to ask even one tough question of Gov. Kitzhaber or his Democrat colleagues about the areas where the real savings might be found. Here are a few and until the governor actually puts these programs on the table you can pretty much dismiss the rest as poppycock:

  1. Eliminate the provisions of the “Little Davis-Bacon Act” that requires bidders for state contracts to pay union scale wages even though there are an abundant number of contractors, workers and suppliers who can provide services and materials cheaper.
  2. Eliminate the provisions in the public employee union contracts that prohibit the state from realizing the savings attendant to outsourcing work if that work had ever been performed by a public employee union member. Gov. Kulongoski negotiated that with his pals in the public employee unions shortly after his re-election.
  3. Review and modify the educational requirements for a whole variety of administrative and ministerial positions. The public employee unions – negotiating with both Govs. Kitzhaber and Kulongoski – increased the educational requirements (now requiring a college degree) in job descriptions for a wide variety of clerical positions. The increased educational requirement is used as justification for an inflated wage. The clerical workers already holding such jobs are “grandfathered” in – they aren’t required to obtain the required college degree. The fact that they continue on doing the work without the requisite college degree is proof positive that the requirement is unnecessary.
  4. Eliminate the requirement imposed by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission that a percentage of electrical power acquired (five percent currently and rapidly moving up to twenty-five percent) emanate from “renewable” energy sources – that is wind and solar – which is significantly more expensive. The State of Oregon, as a utility customer, is forced to pay these substantially higher rates for its massive energy consumption. The State of Oregon would be far better served if it were required to obtain energy at the cheapest rate available.
  5. Eliminate the massive subsidies currently paid to “renewable” energy producers. None of these producers (solar or wind generators) can produce energy at a competitive price and require government intervention in the form of direct subsidies and government mandates for use in order to remain in business. The costs to taxpayers and state government are staggering.

So ask yourself. Will there be a serious examination of any of these programs? Absolutely not. Each of the above benefits a critical segment of the Democrat Party. The first three involve the public employee unions, which finance and direct the political activities of the Oregon Democrat Party. The latter two benefit the environmentalists who contribute money, manpower, and publicity for the Democrats.

Will there be any critical questions asked of the Kitzhaber administration by Oregon’s embedded press/media establishment? Of course not. The traditional watchdog role of the press has been abandoned in favor political consanguinity with Oregon’s liberal government class. The state’s major daily newspapers, followed by television, are so heavily invested in the status quo of Oregon’s politics that they will never ask a hard policy question of a Democrat administration.

Efficiency in government is a good idea but don’t count on John Kitzhaber to make the hard choices.