Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Piggy in the Middle

Norm Leahy at One Man's Trash beat me to it; otherwise this is probably the first blog posting on the release of the Virginia Piglet Book by Citizens Against Government Waste.

The book, a compilation of pork-barrel spending in the Virginia state budget, was launched today at a press conference in Richmond hosted by the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. VIPP's John Taylor introduced three speakers -- CAGW's Thomas Schatz, state Senator Ken Cuccinelli, and Delegate Bill Janis -- while "Porky," a CAGW intern in a pink pig costume, stood by, silently looking on. Richmond radio and TV stations covered the event, as did the print media.

A news release accompanying the publication explains:

The Virginia Piglet Book combines elements of two perennial CAGW publications, the Congressional Pig Book and Prime Cuts, with the Virginia Institute's knowledge of the Virginia state budget. The report exposes many areas in the state budget where wasteful spending can be eliminated, providing a valuable resource to legislators and taxpayers.

From obsoleteand duplicative programs such as the Depression-era Virginia Milk Commission to unnecessary and wasteful institutions like the $3.2 million Virginia Commission of the Arts, the Virginia Piglet Book offers enough examples to make any Virginia taxpayer cringe.

The complete report is available online at www.cagw.org and www.virginiainstitute.org.
At the news conference, Schatz said compiling the Virginia Piglet Book was a real challenge -- the project was started three years ago -- because the "Virginia budget is extremely dense and difficult to get through," a thought echoed by both Senator Cuccinelli and Delegate Janis. Cuccinelli added that "transparency is critical to the debate" over budget and tax matters, saying that the "control of information has to shift from the government to the people." Cuccinelli expressed grave concern about the Governor keeping information from both legislators and the public during budget debates and criticized Governor Warner for failing to post budget information on the Internet, as required by a law he signed.

Delegate Janis expanded on these concerns by noting that the budget is the "only bill introduced in the General Assembly by the Governor," and not by a Delegate or Senator. He said "we have to rely on the Governor and the Finance Secretary to give truthful information" during the budget process.

Schatz pointed to the Warner-appointed Wilder Commission, which delivered a report about three years ago with extensive recommendations for cutting pork out of the Virginia budget. Unfortunately, Schatz said, after all that time, "over 90 percent of the recommendations have failed to be enacted." He said that the Wilder Commission recommendations, like the recommendations in the Piglet Book, represent "common sense decisions that ordinary organizations" -- but not the government -- "make on a daily basis." Referring to a number of programs that duplicate private-sector efforts, Schatz recalled Ronald Reagan's "Yellow Pages test": "If you can find it in the Yellow Pages, the government shouldn't be doing it."

Delegate Janis bemoaned the "culture in Richmond" that views raising taxes as the "first resort" whenever budget challenges are perceived. He said raising taxes should be the last resort, because "government cannot spend money as wisely as individuals an businesses" can. He commended the Piglet Book, saying it "gives us the intellectual ammunition we need to change the culture in Richmond."

Asked by Bob Gibson of the Charlottesville Daily Progress if there is any support in the General Assembly for the privatization of ABC stores (which sell liquor under a state government monopoly), Senator Cuccinelli answered: "There is no good reason for Virginia government to be in the retail sale of anything." Delegate Janis said that "we have to have a fundamental re-evaluation" of what is appropriate for the state government to do. He said we need to ask, not just of ABC liquor sales but of other programs as well, "Is this a core function of state government?" His conclusion in regard to Gibson's question: "This is going to be on the table."

A quick look at the Virginia Piglet Book reveals hundreds of millions of dollars in potential savings to Virginia taxpayers if the book's recommendations are heeded. Let's hope someone is paying attention.

1 comment:

Norman said...

I didn't have as far to travel, Rick.

It's obvious you struck a nerve with the NoVa contingent on the voting machines. They will need a lot of convincing (if that's possible).

John mentioned the idea of having a panel of bloggers discuss what, how and why we do what we do at another, perhaps the next, TMG meeting. Are you interested?