Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Inertia – Why government keeps growing?

Posted by Ed C on Monday, December 3, 2007

For the past year we have been hearing about the “structural deficit” and the only solution was to raise taxes. Sure, Gov. O’Malley outlined a doomsday budget, but limiting growth let alone an actual cut were never going to be given serious consideration by the Democrats in Annapolis.

This is not a $150 million dollar spending cut, not a cap at the rate of inflation, not a freeze, just a slowdown in the rate of the increase. (Baltimore Sun – While state gains, counties lose)

Overall, he [Michael Sanderson] said, it appears that because of the special session local jurisdictions will lose about $250 million next year, of which $150 million will come in a slowdown in the rate of increases to school funding.

Two stories, one local and one from Minnesota highlight the perpetual motion machine that keeps government growing.

First, from Howard County, as reported in the Columbia Flier (Seismic silence spurs county to kill forgotten hot line). For the last 15 years, Howard County has been running an apparently forgotten “earthquake hot line”

County officials said this week they shut down the hot line, citing a lack of use. They were unaware the line was still active until a Columbia Flier reporter inquired about it.

“Sometimes these things get set up and they fade out of memory,” said Kathy Sloan-Beard, a Howard County spokeswoman.

The second story comes from Minnesota’s Department of Transportation.

(From the HometownSource.com, Legislative auditor issues report regarding Pitt’s questionable state expenditures)

On August 1, 2007 when the I-35 bridge collapsed, the now former emergency management director, Sonia Morphew Pitt was out of state: She was attending a seminar in Boston and then went to Washington, DC on an unauthorized trip that had no business purpose. Pitt did not return to Minnesota for 10 days.

My favorite quotes:

“No one at MnDOT asked her to return.”

The state auditor noted that no one at MnDOT required or asked Pitt to return quicker to the state.

Set aside for a moment the $25,000 in questionable state expenditures. If the emergency management director can be out of town during a real emergency, she does not feel it important to return and no one even bothers to ask – how important can the position be? How much will Minnesota tax payers continued to pay in salary, benefits to staff this apparently unnecessary position? (These costs are also being funded by federal grants, so we all get to pay for this one.)

How many unnecessary positions and programs within government continue to be funded? A recent audit of the Howard County Heath Department found:

“Budgets appear to have little meaning and be of little use,” to the Health Department, according to the audit, which was conducted by the Office of the Howard County Auditor. (from the Columbia Flier 9/13/07, Audit finds spending irregularities at Heath Department)

Howard County is about to begin the next round of budgeting for 2009. Besides an unused, forgotten hot line what other savings can be found if Ken Ulman and the County Council take a fair assessment with a goal to cutting expenses?

(BTW, the all-purpose disaster phone line for the Howard county is 410-313-2900)

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