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Meg Whitman needs to check her math

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 6:02 pm in 2010 governor's race, General, Meg Whitman.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was down in Long Beach today, urging state leaders to immediately slash nearly 10 percent of the state government’s workforce in response to ugly new budget deficit estimates.

“We haven’t looked hard enough at where we can cut. We can lay off 20,000 to 30,000 state employees while prioritizing public safety and teachers,” Whitman told the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. “We shouldn’t have to lay off teachers, we need to lay off bureaucrats.”

Streamline the state bureaucracy – hmm, where have I heard that before? Oh, wait, I know: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been trumpeting this from his campaign in 2003 right up through this year’s crisis. (Remember his first State of the State, way back in January 2004? “I don’t want to move boxes around; I want to blow them up. The Executive Branch of this government is a mastodon frozen in time and about as responsive.”)

Fact is, “cut the bloated bureaucracy” has been a GOP rallying cry for decades, and yet whenever the study, the audit or the blue-ribbon commission report comes back, we’re suddently talking about far less “waste, fraud and abuse” than they’d implied. Is there some fat to cut? Sure. Should we? Probably. Will it fix this deficit? Not even close.

The budget deficit now looks to be about $21.3 billion; it would be about $15 billion if voters approved Propositions 1C, 1D and 1E next week, but that almost certainly ain’t gonna happen. And $21 billion isn’t 30,000 jobs, as George Skelton so eloquently put it back in February:

According to the state budget document, there is the equivalent of 205,000 full-time jobs controlled by the governor. There actually are more workers than that because some are part-time. Do the math based on 16 months, since that’s now the time frame of the projected deficit, assuming a balanced-budget package could be implemented by March 1.

You could lay off all those state workers — rid yourself of their pay and benefits — and save only $24.4 billion.

Meanwhile, you would have dumped 160,000 convicted felons onto the streets because all the prisons were closed after the guards and wardens were fired. There’d be no Highway Patrol because all the officers were canned. State parks would be closed because there were no fee-collectors or rangers.

Truth is the savings wouldn’t even add up to $24.4 billion because some of those employees are paid out of small special funds that are self-sustaining.

So, the questions for Whitman are not only “What specific jobs will you cut?” but also “Assuming Californians are OK with that, what else will you do to fix the other 80 percent of the deficit?

We have enough challenges in this state without being math-challenged.

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  • ted ford

    The George Skelton’s column to which you refer was in the LA Times at the height of the budget crisis talks. It was brilliant and should be reprinted in every paper in the State. Meg Whitman may well be in Schwarzneggars’s shoes. That would be my bet. I’m curious what she’ll do then. I think the referendum questions will mostly fail and we will have a massive State crisis. Next stop: a Constitutional Convention.

  • StevefromSacto

    Despite years of Republican b.s. about the state workforce, the fact remains that California ranks 49th out of the 50 states in the number of state employees per 10,000 population. Look it up. It’s the same people who want to cut the state workforce who bitch the most when they have to stand in line at the DMV or their tax refund check takes a long time to come.

  • John W

    People are in for a rude awakening on May 20th, when they see what a $21 billion hole in the general fund budget really means. This state is, indeed, a disaster in terms of how much we spend for what government delivers. Many reasons for that. Things that can’t be fixed overnight, in time for this budget crisis. I never bought anything from Ebay, and I’m not buying Meg. I’d vote for Jerry as Chairman (a/k/a governor), if he would bring Tom Campbell aboard in a newly created position of CEO. Even though the amount of money involved is chump change, I’d feel better if Arnold and the legislature would at least make the symbolic gesture of blowing up the aptly named “Waste Board” — or at least the Carole Migden part of it.

  • Pingback: calitics’ dayen to whitman, If these people were in an empty trash bin, they’d still clamor to “cut the waste.” « Change Candidate Wanted For California

  • Diane

    I would like to see you do a similar analysis of Obama’s math skills…like his claim that his cut of 100 million out of the federal budget is significant, but that much more than that in earmarks is not.

    Seems to me that if we could cut 10% of the state workers as Whitmas suggests, that would save over $2 billion. Since when is 100 million significant, but $2 billion is not???

    Take a look at all the office buildings in Sacramento, especially for the department of education, and it is not hard to imagine 20k jobs being eliminated without affecting the teachers, prison guards, DMV lines, or park rangers

  • steve wilson

    America is getting what it has deserved for a long time. We are in decline and nothing can save this country. America is doomed and did it to themselves. Slavery mentality with Communist China our slave block to sell us poisonous products that kill American manufacturing, quality, jobs, pride, identity.

  • Tom Benigno

    Sorry Ms. Whitman, this is not an E-Bay company you will be running. It is evident that E-Bay is starting to close lower than it did. The responsibility of the Governor is to the 40 million people in California. As the 6th largest economy in the world, it is our duty to make our state grow. A false economy won’t do it. This state needs jobs. We should be the leader in producing goods and services for the whole world. To date we are in a meltdown, just selling & trading junk with one another which is called barter. In a statement from the BECK show, a school gave a test to some students. They had to give their definition of STUFF, they couldn’t give the right answers. Stuff is what E-bay sells and what other countries are producing. Let’s get someone who knows how to make jobs and generate taxes for the economy, and while doing so, help the people who have lost their whole lives work. We don’t need another Martha Stewart as our Governor.

  • Emmanuel Kepas

    By keeping its work force nimble, and to do that, reorganizing early and often is key, Whitman said.

    “Every three to six months, we will change a large chunk of our workforce. That is not always popular with people, because most of them don’t like change. But when you change people out, you get a fresh set of eyes or perspective,” she said. “What we try to do is give people what we call a career adventure. We select people who like change and ambiguity.”

    Good Luck CA IF you choose Governor Meg Whitman.

    Sincerely, Emmanuel Kepas