Sunday, July 22, 2007

Where To Cut First?

The City-County in Indy needs to cut somewhere. The arguments are always about where to do it. Every department head sees their department as the One True Necessary Governmental Agency, and their fiefdom besides. Every sepcial interest group that is served by a particular department holds it as sancrosanct. To paraphrase many great thinkers, there's nothing as permanent as a government office.

A few posts back, I showed a list of the Indy Government page. True, not every link was in fact a government office or program. At the same time, several links begat several more offices and programs. The point was to show that there is a lot of government. The point was to get readers to see the list and have at least a few of the departments seem so wholly irrelevant or of a wish list priority that suggestions could be made as to where to cut so as to more fully fund real priorities, such as public safety- without having to resort to a tax increase.

To me, there are two ways to achieve cuts.

1. The fastest is to decree a percentage budget cut. This eliminates the territorial defense of certain departments that comes with the proposed cutting or elimination of selected departments or programs. If there is the desire to spend a certain amount of money in order to bring public safety forces up to snuff, simply take that dollar figure and divide it by an equal proportion to each of the non-public safety budgets. Voila, there's the money.

Tightening the belts of the non-public safety departments and programs is something that should be happily done by them. It's a sacrifice to them in the name of the greater good. That's the hallmark of government, as I routine hear it told.

2. Target departments or programs for outright elimination. Again, select the amount of money needed to bring public safety up-to-date, and then eliminate programs and departments until you have your figure.

How to do this? Let the 29 City-County Councilors get a list of all the departments and programs. They review this list and vote a ranking, from 1 to 150 or whatever the number is. The votes are weighted by ranking. Public safety is exempt from the vote. Once complete, the lowest voted departments fall until you have the savings necessary to fund public safety.

If you think this type of vote is difficult to tally, keep in mind that the Major League Baseball Writers do exactly this every year in voting retired baseball stars to the Hall of Fame. A handful make the Hall, but those who fail to receive a certain basline number of votes are forevermore excluded from the Hall ballot. If baseball can tally priorities for something as innocuous as Hall of Fame status, certainly the City-County government can do so in tight financial times with the services it delivers.

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