Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What cuts are legislators proposing for themselves?

Thank you to The Senate Site for posting the initial list of budget cuts recommended by staff. Reading through it, a lot of the cuts / deferments seemed to make sense, but we were particularly interested in what kind of self-sacrifice the Legislature has in mind to demonstrate leadership. It's on page 48, and by "it," we mean this single item:

Legislative staff may be reduced by 1.2 FTE per 1% reduction (18 FTE at 15%). Legislators would meet 1/2 day less per 1% reduction (7.5 days at 15%). Staffing for task forces and special requests will be limited. 2009: (-$1,484,200); 2010: (-$2,967,900).
Not insignificant amounts, but we have a couple of thoughts / questions for you more experienced budget-readers:

  • What percentages do these cuts reflect? Unless we are misreading the chart, the list does not appear to identify the percentages reflected by individual cuts (vs. total percentages at the end). So we can't tell, for example, whether $1,484,200 in reduced staff expense is 1% or 50%.

  • When it says that Legislators would meet 1/2 day less per 1% reduction, is that a total for the entire year (for example, fewer interim meetings?), or that the regular session would be shortened? Because we'll be up there every day lobbying for anything that shortens the time our legisature is in session.

  • What about other cuts, such as the $300,000 stay-at-home bonus for legislators?

  • If there is anything in the legislative budget for travel, how about eliminating it?

  • Why not eliminate the constitutional review staff, since legislators ignore their warnings anyway?

  • P.S. May we assume that Sen. Howard Stephenson will stop insisting that his fellow board member's son-in-law be given a multi-million dollar contract for "textbook review"?

    23 comments:

    Buzzkill said...

    I think the intent here is to reduce legislative budgets at the same percent as the rest of state government. That's what we did in September (here's a link) and I believe we're all expecting to do it again.

    The line item you quote here shows legislative budgets cut at the same rate as every other area of state government. At 15 percent, we lose 18 employees. If the eventual cut is, say, 10 percent the equation works out to 12 employees (1.2 employees per 1% cut). It's painful. In the senate we've had restrictions on travel in place since August, and we've been working to save money in other ways too.

    7.5 less legislative work days would have to be interim meetings because the 45-day legislative session is a constitutional mandate.

    Hope that helps.

    RC

    The Senate Site said...

    P.S. That cynicism is really bad for your heart. :-)

    Voice of Utah said...

    Hi, Ric.

    3 thoughts: First, I realize it's just a starting point, so I hope that a straight-across-the-board cut is not the actual approach. Obviously, it might be better to cut the budget for the legislature (and/or any other department) in a different percentage than, say, Meals on Wheels.

    2nd, my suggestion about cutting their own per diems/pay was not (just) a cheap shot. I really do think people would accept these heartbreaking cuts more readily if they perceived that legislators were taking a hit themselves (one more palpable than just reduced staff. Most of us don't know what staff do, but we all know what Meals on Wheels does.)

    3rd, a confused spreadsheet reader question: I initially assumed that the left column reflected the smaller percentage, and the second column the full 15%, but the math negated that theory. Why is the figure in the second column sometimes larger, sometimes smaller than the left? I'm sure there's an obvious explanation, but I could use help.

    P.S. I didn't used to be cynical until I started watching our legislature in action...

    Voice of Utah said...

    P.S. Another cynical question: Does the Senate's voluntary restriction on travel mean it has been removed from (not included in) the budget?

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