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.