to Save $1 Billion
Virginia lawmakers are serious about restraining
state government spending? Consider this: Simply
7,627 vacant positions could have saved $1 billion
in the next two-year budget!
the economy flirts with a recession caused by a
housing fiasco that our leaders should have seen
coming, Virginia's lawmakers avoid making the hard
choices that their counterparts in the business
world have no choice but to grapple with.
a prolonged struggle to patch up the current
two-year budget, The General Assembly passed a $77
billion spending plan for the next two years that
is fully $5 billion higher. Spending will increase
almost seven percent -- yet lawmakers called the
session difficult because money was so tight.
people in government would have such a feeling.
is every reason to believe that when the General
Assembly comes back to a full session in January
next year, the state will be faced with continued
“shortfalls” in state revenues.
"Shortfall" is the term applied when
government plans to spend way more money than in
the previous budget but the revenues don't flow in
as optimistically anticipated.
this year’s General Assembly session, an obvious
measure to staunch state spending would have been
to “freeze” all vacant job positions for the
upcoming two- year budget. The Democrat Governor
of Arizona took such an action in February, but no
one in Virginia even thought to do it.
average annual cost for a state job, salary plus
benefits, is $68,743. So, how much can be saved by
simply not filling the jobs which are currently
the help of Delegate Dave Albo’s office, I have
found some fascinating numbers that show the huge
savings are available.
December 31, there were 8,927 vacant job positions
not counting faculty at our state universities.
As a former business owner, I would readily freeze
the academic jobs as well. Our institutions of
higher learning are considered independent so only
they can decide what to do with these positions.
But that doesn't mean that the General Assembly
has to fund them. To tide the state over during
the economic downturn, the legislature could
withhold funding for a substantial percentage, say
75 percent, if not all of those vacant university
positions. But it didn't.
the 8,927 vacant non-faculty positions that were
vacant last December 31, about 1,000 positions are
allocated to prisons, jails and the State Police.
These public safety positions have been left out
of the following calculations.
take 300 more of these vacant positions and label
them as “critical” for the management of our
state government – key managers. All other job
openings -- all 7,627 of them -- should be on the
table. These vacant positions should be
immediately frozen and kept frozen until such time
as our economy turns around and state tax revenues
justifies filling them.
those 7627 vacant positions would save an
incredible $524.3 million a year -- or more than
$1 billion during the two-year budget beginning
a further analysis of the state employment numbers
shows something truly fascinating.
December 31, 2006 to December 31, 2007, when it
was clear that Virginia was heading into economic
turbulence, the state hired 3,949 additional
people. That increase in employment added $271.5
million to our state spending at the very same
time when our elected officials knew the state
would have to cut expenditures.
the state really wanted to run its operations more
like a business or a family, as it should, it
would never have added $271 million in additional
payroll just as we were entering an economic
slowdown. And, for sure, instead of taking monies
from the Rainy Day Fund, from teachers and
universities, and from our transportation needs in
the two years ahead, the General Assembly could
have simply frozen 7,627 of the 8,927 “vacant”
non-faculty positions and the budget “problem”
would have been resolved.
is it that our elected officials won’t bring a
reasoned business approach to the management of
year we are faced once again with a race for
Governor. Hopefully that campaign will offer a
robust and healthy debate on our government can be
better managed. Freezing vacant government jobs as
outlined above is one reasonable management tool
that was left on the table this year. Our next
governor should not do so.
April 7, 2008