Seven way to cut state's budget: Ideas that won our latest contest

March 26, 2003

Was it the pork you didn't like, or the issue itself? Or are you just too transfixed by coverage of Gulf War II to think about Maryland's state budget?

I ask the question because there was only one entry in the latest contest for letter-writers, in which I asked folks, in 100 words or less, to tell me what state services they'd do without to cut the Maryland state budget and avoid a tax increase.

The winning entry - the only entry - came from Tom Janus, of Hagerstown who offered the following prescriptions for what ails Maryland, fiscally speaking.

Janus said he would ask state lawmakers to do the following:

1. Eliminate one of every 10 "managerial/administrative" positions by broadening the span of control of those left standing.

2. Eliminate all those positions where you have a one-on-one, i.e. one person reports to another person.

3. Eliminate all training/education dollars for all state employees and the travel and entertainment that goes with it.


4. Eliminate all consulting contracts.

5. Reduce all staff expenditures for state senators and House of Delegates' members by 10 percent.

6. Cut all services that consist solely of counseling; coordinate with local churches to pick up these souls.

7. Make an across-the-board reduction in everyone's budget by 2 percent (with no exceptions).

Now I could argue with some of Janus' suggestions. For example, across-the-board cuts are what legislators resort to when they're unwilling to do the hard work of looking at what works and what doesn't. Or they're unwilling to take the political fallout that comes when pruning back money-wasting programs that have a constituency ready to fight for them.

As I said, I could quibble, but won't because Janus was the only one to step up to the challenge. For that, he wins a $35-per-couple ticket to the Hagerstown Exchange Club's pig roast, to be held Saturday, May 17, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Potomac Fish and Game Club.

My own suggestion: With the federal "No Child Left Behind" bill specifying what local school systems must do, doesn't this make some of the bureaucracy at the state's Department of Education redundant?

During my recent interview with Hagerstown officials, I asked them whether anyone had come forward to offer their property for the revitalization program proposed recently by the Greater Hagerstown Committee.

The plan, which would utilize low-interest loan money, would allow developers to renovate or build new market-rate housing in downtown, an entire block at a time.

The closest anyone has come to a proposal, according to Mayor William Breichner, is one property owner who has two buildings he'd like to renovate, but which are on either side of a place he can't acquire at a price he considers reasonable.

Without knowing more, it's unfair to comment on this specific situation, but I can say that there are too many people holding downtown property and not doing anything with it, in the hope that somewhere down the road, someone will pay them an outrageous price for it.

This past Sunday, Andrea Rowland wrote about Marcie Betts, a correctional officer who was fired from Roxbury Correctional Institution after she posted erotic photos of herself on a Web site that she and her husband considered tasteful and "artistic."

From there the photos went to a tattoo magazine which ended up in the prison mailroom, where correctional officials found it and subsequently fired her. She now says she will fight the dismissal in court, on the grounds that self-expression is her right under the First Amendment.

She may indeed win that case, given that the photos were taken before she was hired. But as these photos recycle endlessly through the Internet, what seemed like a good idea then may seem less so as the years go by.

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