“Across the Board” Budget Cuts are Lazy Policy

Gov. Rendell announced that to balance the Pennsylvania state budget — after getting $250 million less from Congress than predicted — he would be ordering cuts of 1.9% “across-the-board,” from all departments. He also said about 100 state workers would be laid off, a slight decrease from his earlier prediction of 20,000.

Across the board cuts are good politics, but lazy public policy. State lawmakers need to prioritize spending and eliminate areas that aren’t core functions of government.

For example, a number of House Republicans sent a letter to the Governor demanding the elimination of $100 million in pork-barrel programs often called WAMs. Many of these line items had been eliminated in 2009, but were thrown back in this year, without warning.

Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Baer likes the idea of cutting WAMs, and cites bi-partisan support for it, and some other areas:

Any WAMs, says Rep. Gene DePasquale, D-York, “should be first to go . . . clearly before cuts to health care, education or environmental protection.”

Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-Delco, calls cutting WAMs “a good suggestion.”

Rep. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne County, says the Legislature “has to put more on the table,” including long-hoarded leadership accounts, which he figures at about $200 million and calls “a padded reserve to buttress leaders.”

And Philly Democratic Sen. Mike Stack says the state can rake in $100 million by legalizing small games of chance.

Hey, why not? We legalized large games of chance.

So, just like that – with WAMs, slush funds and video poker – we’re at roughly $400 million, and that’s without savings from salary/perk/pension cuts.

It’s just too bad that none of these suggestions come from legislative leaders.

We’ve outlined a slew of budget cuts and reforms, from eliminating corporate welfare, to selling state liquor stores, to Medicaid reform. Realistically, we don’t expect any tough budgetary reforms in the waning months of the Rendell administration … but with the looming fiscal crisis Pennsylvania is facing, lazy public policy just won’t cut it.