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The shape of things to come
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gee, how'd that happen?

In California:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday he will declare a "fiscal emergency" in January to give him and the Legislature more power to deal with the state's growing deficit.

[...]

The shortfall is not $10 billion, but more than $14 billion — a 40 percent jump that would put it in orbit with some of the state's worst fiscal crisis, those who have met with him said.

[...]

Schwarzenegger in August signed a $145.5 billion budget that increased spending 11 percent due largely to the increased cost of bond repayments and special funds. General fund spending for day-to-day operations increased less than 1 percent, from $101.7 to $102.3 billion for the budget year that began July 1.

In August, Schwarzenegger's office projected the state would end its current budget year with a $4.1 billion reserve. Last month, the state's nonpartisan legislative analyst reported that the state would instead end the year in the red, and was on pace to rack up a staggering $10 billion deficit over the next 18 months.

Schwarzenegger and his top aides this week have privately told lawmakers and interest groups that the gap could top $14 billion and warned cities, counties and health and welfare agencies to expect cuts.
In Georgia:
Nonetheless, the scope of the problem —- as outlined by the agency's new commissioner, Gena Abraham —- is still stunning.

In a briefing attended by Gov. Sonny Perdue and DOT board members Wednesday, Abraham painted a picture of an agency in which the most basic of management practices had broken down. For example, when she first asked DOT staff how many projects the agency had underway, she was initially told 1,100, then 1,300, later 2,200 and then 5,400. The most recent number is 9,211.

That, in an agency that lets roughly 270 contracts a year.

As DOT board member Larry Walker described it, "this is a cultural problem that has been growing for 50 years," and it's going to take some time to fix it.
But hey, forget that stuff, let's let government run our health care and retirement funds, OK?
 
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Sure. They should turn out to be every bit as well-managed as the VA hospital system, and I don’t know about you, but (though I’m a vet) VA care is just about my last choice. (This is not to say there aren’t some fine individuals who work in the system. There are, but they’re swimming against the tide of crappy bureaucracy.)
 
Written By: JorgXMcKie
URL: http://
Quite an "analysis" here... most of California’s problem relates to Republican Arnold Schwarzengger cutting a car tax with no way to make up the revenue.. kind of exactly like how the Republicans in the Senate just forced an AMT patch while filibustering attempts to raise taxes somewhere else to keep the fix revenue neutral.

The rest of California’s problem involves ballot initiatives that prohibit tax hikes, and a progressive dependency on borrowing as a result.

One thing it’s not is fiscally responsible. Another thing it’s not is related to "health-care plans". Please. You didn’t even *try* to connect those dots.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Let’s run some numbers here....

145.5 billion budget - 11% increase - [quantity of (145.5 /111)= 1.311, times 11...hmmm .. carry the one ...14.42 or thereabouts.

Hmmm. 14 Billion, ya say? Well, fancy that. Ain’t that a heck of a coinky-dink?

Yeah, just chance the numbers line up like that, eh?
 
Written By: The Gonzman
URL: http://
most of California’s problem relates to Republican Arnold Schwarzengger cutting a car tax with no way to make up the revenue
Not quite true. The loss of revenue from cutting the vehicle license fee is about $3.8 Billion. That’s not "most" of $14 Billion. Even so, the increase in sales tax revenue just from gasoline this year is more than the revenue lost from the VLF cut.
One thing it’s not is fiscally responsible. Another thing it’s not is related to "health-care plans". Please. You didn’t even *try* to connect those dots
You neglected to include the Georgia DOT in that. An agency that misses the number of its current projects by a factor of 8 isn’t exactly efficient. And yet, we’re expected to believe that when government runs health care, it will all be better.
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
In defense of GADOT, the question must be asked, "What do you mean by poroject?" If by "project" you mean EVERY piece of design, bidding, construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of roads, bridges, culverts, access ways, and right of ways (part of what my state defines as the use of road funds and this clunky language is required because lawyers and contractors are so sharp)...then you get a large number. A number that covers EVERY patch job or major construction project. If by project you mean "projects" as in I-460 repaving, or the Minneapolis bridge reconstruction project, then the number is MUCH smaller. And GADOT may have an internal lexicon that defines "project" to mean an event that meets or exceeds a certain dollar level. When asked how many "projects" GADOT is currently undertaking they may have said 1,123....

But IF by project the questioner meant his/her definition of project, mayhap as I said ALL expenditure of GADOT funds for the purpose of design, bidding, construction, reconstruction, maintenance......etc. etc, yes then GADOT had to come back with a much higher figure.

So sorry to pop the libertarian bubble here, but without understanding WHAT was asked, then it is hard to pin blame on GADOT...BTW, would road salting count as a "project"? How about a patch job on a state road of two pot-holes? IS that a "Project"? If the latter, then, no exact count is EVER possible, no doubt minor patch jobs are paid for, not by a line in the budget, but from within a "pool", e.g. "The Minor Road Repair Fund" which may be apportioned out to various road districts on the basis of a GADOT-set or General Assembly-set formula. Each road district Chierf Engineer will determine the allocation of resources, WITHOUT REFERENCE TO GADOT, merely reporting the expenditure of funds, AFTER THE FACT.

You can say government gets many things wrong, this is not evidence of that...you might question if GADOT really ought to be investing road funds in light rail. You might question a particualr project, in my state the Governor almost always extends a four-lane highway to his/her hometown-somehow that is always a "vital" part of the Transportation Plan. But this is not, necessarily, "proof" of anything, except that Transportation Departments are big things that do many projects, large and small, and that it is just the nature of the beast. In fact, if this is what has happened, all this does is CENTRALIZE the process, more...now Road Districts will have to PRE_REPORT and PRE_APPROVE all projects with Atlanta...trust me that’ll make the whole process of road maintenace go MUCH faster.

Bottom-line: As we say in my office, "Details matter" and without knowing the details of the situation it’s not possible to judge the competence or INCOMPTEENCE of GADOT.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Joe, don’t you think that when the question is posed to GADOT that it is their responsibility to ask "what do you mean by projects?" Your opening sentence
In defense of GADOT, the question must be asked, "What do you mean by poroject?"
tells me that GADOT was negligent in not asking that question prior to providing an answer.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
You neglected to include the Georgia DOT in that. An agency that misses the number of its current projects by a factor of 8 isn’t exactly efficient. And yet, we’re expected to believe that when government runs health care, it will all be better.

I don’t know enough about the Georgia DOT to form an opinion of its efficiency, but individual examples of badly-performing bureaucracies do not serve to demonstrate how no bureaucracy can or does ever function efficiently. It’s a poor argument. The US Postal Service and the US Social Security Administration: two efficient bureaucracies. Now you need an argument that explains why government-run health care will look like the Georgia DOT and not like the Postal Service.

On the other hand, this:

Not quite true. The loss of revenue from cutting the vehicle license fee is about $3.8 Billion. That’s not "most" of $14 Billion

Is accurate. But in a larger view, states who are chronically in deficits and debt are not helped by repeated tax-cutting combined with a refusal to ever raise taxes. If supply-side economics was real, that kind of plan would solve all budget problems, but it’s not, and it doesn’t.

I imagine that most of CA’s problems come from cyclical revenue shortfalls related to the housing bust - but also from a taxation structure inadequate to support current spending. Perhaps Governor Schwarz will respond with heavy spending cuts. And perhaps he will torpedo his party in California for about a decade if he tries.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The Postal Service is efficient? News to me. Do you know the loss rate on bulk mailings is about 12%? Its Priority Mail takes up to 4 days for a service that private delivery companies can do in 1. And it has a legal monopoly on first class mail, so we can’t see whether a private company can do that better, too.

Someone has already pointed out how awful the VA Hospitals are. And Medicare is hardly a model of efficiency, sucking up more dollars every year Those are two examples of government nosing into health care, and they’re both bad. So, yes, it’s reasonable to infer that government-run health case is going to be worse than private care.


As far as California, Arnold cut one tax, so don’t rant about "repeated tax-cutting" in California. BTW, it was a tax that even the L.A. Times conceded was a bad tax. (Although, the Times wants it reinstated.) The tax was hampering new car sales, among other things. Curiously enough, the Times article I read didn’t provide any analysis on the economic benefit that came from cutting that particular tax.

$14 Billion represents about 10% of California’s annual budget, so it’s not like Arnold has to engage in "heavy" spending cuts. But the state’s outlays are pretty much decided by law; there’s little cutting any governor can do.
If supply-side economics was real, that kind of plan would solve all budget problems, but it’s not, and it doesn’t.
No one has ever said that supply-side economics would solve all budget problems. This is a straw man argument. You’ll need more than this to assert that supply-side economics isn’t real.
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
No Tom, it’s not incumbent on GADOT to ask, as I say they may alredy know what you mean when you ask about "projects." BTW, isn’t it incumbent on the NEW Commissioner to ask, what HE means by projects? What we have is an educational process here, possibly. New Commissioner doesn’t know what GADOT means by projects, but the GADOT does. Better communications, BY BOTH SIDES would help...This is as much about clueless management as it is about hopeless bureaucracy.

Glasnost your post on CA is a bit silly...isn’t it incumbent on government to match it’s spendig to its revenue, not it’s taxation to its spending? And no, USPS and the Social Services bureaucracies are NOT efficient. For that matter neither are DOT’s, state or Federal (It’s just that the second article does not support this contention.) And Note that Ah-nuld and his legislature increased spending by 40%!!!! Dude Ah-nuld came in on a fiscal crisis and now is leaving on one...I guess he really didn’t learn his lesson. OR Kalee-foenians didn’t learn their lessons...you can’t tax and spend your way to prosperity.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"...isn’t it incumbent on government to match it’s spendig to its revenue,"

No. It is only incumbent on government to match it’s spending to its POTENTIAL revenue. If you greedy, selfish, skinflint wingnuts would only open your stony hearts to the needs of your fellow man and stop hoarding your pennies to pay for decadent frippery, we could build a decent, caring, and peace-loving world where children of all ethnicities and sexual orientations could live a rich, full, and rewarding life. But no, you rich white males would rather waste your ill gotten pelf on the latest computer gizmos so that you can rant about the evils of government with your fellow wingnuts or buy the latest video games which glorify killing and oppression of the worlds masses and exploitation of whichever sex objects your particular sexual orientation finds attractive.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
So sorry to pop the libertarian bubble here, but without understanding WHAT was asked, then it is hard to pin blame on GADOT
Apparently the board, who hadn’t any idea of the status of projects, knew what was meant by the word. As did the governor. And the new commissioner. And of course, the staff must have as well, as they tried to pin the number down.

As is obvious, they were a bit taken aback when the apparent final number came in. Of course the obvious point is whatever was meant by ’project’ the GADOT had no idea how many there were.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
No McQ what I read doesn’t support that....it says that as they refined their request(s) the numbers grew. Again the AJC article doesn’t demonstrate that there is a failure of the MIS, only that the Commissioner’s request for information increased. The Commissioner apparently wanted ALL road projects from large to small....and guess what as I said finding ALL projects is considerably different than finding the larger ones that the central office oversees or considers "projects."

Bottom-line: I consider this no more or less a hit piece than something produced by the WaPo on a military project. The article may or may present all the information. It does say the Commissioner is a heroine...she may just be a control freak.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
No McQ what I read doesn’t support that....it says that as they refined their request(s) the numbers grew.
Well Joe, that may be because you’re not hearing all the local coverage like I am, and I acknowledge that and accept the fact that what I was able to provide isn’t a complete telling of the tale, but the bottom line is, they knew exactly what was being asked.

What they didn’t have was any way within their system to actually answer the question. So all of this has literally been ’discovery’ on their part.

And, of course, the bottom line is they had no way to answer the question when asked because they had no comprehensive list of their projects nor their status. This list has been compiled and revised constantly over the days since the new director of GADOT has taken office and first asked for their status.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
No McQ what I read doesn’t support that....it says that as they refined their request(s) the numbers grew. Again the AJC article doesn’t demonstrate that there is a failure of the MIS, only that the Commissioner’s request for information increased. The Commissioner apparently wanted ALL road projects from large to small....and guess what as I said finding ALL projects is considerably different than finding the larger ones that the central office oversees or considers "projects."

Bottom-line: I consider this no more or less a hit piece than something produced by the WaPo on a military project. The article may or may present all the information. It does say the Commissioner is a heroine...she may just be a control freak.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I think we’ve covered that.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog

 
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