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The Tentacle


July 1, 2002

Cutting The Waste From The State Budget

Mike Kuster

Have you ever wondered where your tax dollars go? Of course, many people feel that their dollars are wasted.

I've worked for the State of Maryland for almost 10 years. I can tell you that there is some waste. There is room for improvement, but the answers are not as easy as you think.

Earlier this year, Maryland Democratic leaders proposed a committee to investigate the state's tax rates, alluding to the need to raise taxes. In response, Maryland Republicans proposed a committee to investigate state spending.

On this issue, the Maryland Republicans are correct. There is no need to raise taxes in Maryland until a comprehensive review of state spending is conducted. Odds are there will be no new taxes if this path is followed.

"But we face an $800,000,000 deficit," you say!

There is $800,000,000 in waste!

So what does that mean to you? Well, it means that each Marylander pays an extra $148.84 in taxes annually.

Timothy Brooks, Republican candidate for House of Delegates in District 3-A, announced his plan to cut $429.3 million from the state budget. His plan mixes some good points with some pipe dreams. The plan includes 35 steps ranging from eliminating agencies to dropping the state's employee health plans.

Some of his steps deserve merit. After all, the ideas came from the state's Department of Legislative Services. Some of his good proposals include eliminating Program Open Space, the Department of Aging, and the Inter-agency Committee on School Construction, the Office of Minority Affairs, the Maryland Stadium Authority, and the Maryland Secretary of State. All of these agencies' functions are or could be done within other agencies.

There are, no doubt, many other programs and agencies that duplicate the services of other agencies. In fact, there are agencies that duplicate the services of private industry.

Take, for instance, the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's Consumer and Family Sciences and Agricultural Sciences divisions. Grocery stores and magazines provide the same information as the Consumer and Family Sciences division. Local feed stores and cooperatives provide members and customers with the same information and services as the Agricultural Sciences division.

The only program with the Cooperative Extension Service that cannot be duplicated is the 4-H program, which was enacted by Congress 100 years ago and continues to serve youth in many ways.

Mr. Brooks, however, delves into a few areas that he should avoid. The Maryland employees' health plans, for instance, provide two important roles. They keep our employees healthy and they keep our community healthy. Health insurance programs, like those offered to state employees, should be models for health insurance, not eliminated. Preventive care that is affordable keeps health care costs down for the state.

Maryland needs to be exploring ways to expand access to quality health insurance. Mr. Brooks would have a large base of employees give-up some of the best insurance available.

In all, however, Mr. Brooks should be commended for his research and coming up with a savings of $79.94 per resident.

Instead of cutting everything in sight, though, the Maryland General Assembly and the next governor must explore all of our expenditures. There is always waste to be eliminated. Health Insurance is not one of them.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, we'll each get our $148.84 back in a tax break.

Of course, I'd rather send my $148.84 on education or health insurance. Are we really missing $148.84 per year?



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