From: Ronald Mortensen
Subject: Get the Skunks Out of the Budget
Date: Sat Jan 25 16:47:48 MST 2014
I thought this would be of interest as you give the base budget an in depth look.  Hopefully you will identify the "skunks" and develop the consensus necessary to get rid of them in order to fund more critically needed programs.  Please take a minute to read it.  Thanks.



Public Budgeting – The Parable of the Skunks

Ronald Mortensen, Ph.D.,


Incremental budget:  A budget prepared using a previous year’s budget with incremental amounts added for the new budget period.



Skunks deserve public funding.  They make children happy.  Seniors love them because they remind them of their days growing up in the country.  People come from all around to see them.  While in the area, families go to restaurants and fill their cars with gas.  Thus, it is clearly in the public interest for the taxpayers to open up their “family purses” to support skunks.  After all, they enhance everyone’s quality of life and they are a source of economic development. 


“Utahns for Skunks” is organized.  They hire a lobbyist, put up yard signs supporting public funding for skunks and they contact their elected officials.  The Chamber of Commerce, elected officials, civic groups and major newspapers all support a taxpayer investment in skunks.  After all, it will only cost the average family the equivalent of a couple of pizzas a year in higher taxes and the rewards in terms of quality of life and economic development are immeasurable.


After a great deal of work, one million dollars in ongoing funding is approved foreach of five skunks.  The hard work is done.  No one will ever again ask why these stinkers are in the budget.


A year goes by.  Officials are preparing the next budget.  They have hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus funds to allocate.  The skunks automatically get a 10% increase simply because they are in the budget.  The next five years are good and now each skunk is getting well over $1.5 million dollars.


Finally, the economy turns down and tax receipts drop like a rock.  Rather than going after the skunks and getting them out of the budget, officials implement a 10% across the board cut in spending.  After all, they don’t have the stomach to deal with the stink that the skunks would make if they tried to kick even one of them out of the budget. 


When revenues continue to fall, rather than eliminating the skunks, taxes and fees are increased.  So, at the end of the day, just like the legitimate, core functions of government such as law enforcement, jails, courts, education, water, sanitation, air quality and highways, the skunks will each be somewhat poorer and the taxpayers will still be paying for them. 


This cycle continues year after year.  The skunks maintain and increase their funding while core functions of government are short-changed and new, even more critical needs go unfunded.




© 2014 Ronald W. Mortensen | All rights reserved