Friday, December 18, 2009

Attention House of Delegates, Cutting Coffee Service Won't Save the Budget

As an organizer I've had to deal with working for organizations that had tight budgets and quickly learned that one way to prevent some extra expenses is to cut out luxuries -- or at least find other ways to procure them. In preparation for some meetings, for instance, I would try to get some volunteers to bring in coffee and bagels and one a few occasions I even got local businesses to donate to the cause. These were just common sense solutions that were immediately taken when I realized how tight our budget was going to be. It's also worth noting that something that political campaigns often do, so it isn't like politicians are unaware of these concepts.

I bring this up because it appears as though the House of Delegates is just now realizing that doing away with small unnecessary costs can save money as it's cutting the coffee service for Delegates. According to the News and Advance, one of their other revolutionary cost saving measures is to hold certain meetings on the same meeting so that they don't have to reimburse members for trips to Richmond on various days. Now I'm glad that the House is taking these steps now as it represents some money that doesn't have to be cut from programs that can help the less fortunate, but one has to wonder why these cuts weren't made as soon as the Commonwealth began facing financial difficulties.

This situation also represents a larger problem that we have to examine. At a time when the General Assembly will likely be making a lot of cuts to important programs, there needs to be some sort of accountability in the decision making process. Since it's just now that these unnecessary costs are being cut, however, it's obvious that it's difficult for state employees to find cost saving measures and even harder for the general public to contribute ideas to the process. I imagine that there could be non-profits that assist in the process of making programs more efficient or perhaps the addition of a few extra positions on the state payroll (perhaps the blogs could even play a role if the budget was more accessible), but I highly doubt any of those will happen before the General Assembly has to vote on the budget in a few months.

Despite the difficulties in trying to make the budget process more efficient and my poor hopes for this go around, I strongly believe that the discussion needs to begin on how the process could be improved. While the forum might need to much larger in the future, the comment section of this post would be a great place to begin.

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