Budget crisis taken one bite at a time

Published 2:23 am Sunday, December 28, 2008

Someone once asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?”

Well, despite the fact that I wouldn’t do this literally, the figurative answer is “one bite at a time.”

That is the approach that county, state and federal leaders need to take when it comes to weathering a national recession that is so far-reaching that even those who had their heads buried in the sand six months ago have to admit it is now a reality.

Email newsletter signup

Too often you will hear legislators say that one proposed cut or another simply doesn’t save enough money to make it worthwhile.

And therein lies the problem: Everyone wants to find that magic bullet.

Well guess what people, it simply doesn’t exist. That sort of miracle solution is living in la-la land with unicorns, the tooth fairy and Bigfoot.

We need our elected officials to understand that at all levels of government and start acting accordingly.

Leaders are quick to say that the problem is really dwindling revenue more than it is expenses that, in many cases, have already been cut.

You know what? The taxpayers don’t care.

In most places, and certainly in Lawrence County, the taxpayers have been fairly clear that they don’t want to pay more money, especially because the general sentiment is that government is wasteful and not spending our dollars wisely.

We need our leaders to start thinking of new ideas to make cuts, consolidate services and streamline government. Business as usual is what got us all into this situation and it will take some tough decisions to get us out.

An interesting idea that I heard recently came from Kentucky governor Steve Beshear.

He proposed that all state employees take furloughs that consist of a mandatory three days off without pay to be used by mid-year

This plan would save the state of Kentucky $8 million a year, if it is approved by the Legislature.

How much would a similar system save Ohio? What about Lawrence County? Shoot, what about the entire federal government?

Critics are quick to say this is only a drop in the bucket. They are right — but at least it could be the first drop.

While any proposal that affects workers and families’ livelihoods should be carefully considered, the reality is that some type of cut along these lines could help save someone’s job in the long run. Three days is better than three jobs.

Gov. Ted Strickland needs to take this type of approach.

Ohio faces a $7.3 billion deficit over the next two years based on current tax revenue projections, despite the fact that the governor has already cut 3,000 state jobs and two years ago proposed a bare-bones budget that had to be cut by an additional $1.9 billion.

I don’t have the answers to our national, state and local budget crises. But I can tell you that the solution lies in trimming expenses and making decisions about every aspect of how government operates.

Is a particular service necessary? Is it provided efficiently? Can it be provided at a reduced level? These are the types of questions that our leaders have to be asking.

The reality is that the economy isn’t going to turn around overnight, and likely isn’t going to fully recover for months or even years.

Sacrifices are going to have to be made. Services are going to have to be cut. Change is going to have to rule the day.

The taxpayers already have provided our leaders with their dinner utensils. Now is time for them to sit down at the table and take that first bite.