Friday, June 4, 2010

When Lack of Transparency Becomes Transparent

By Jon E. Easter

On the surface of things, it should be pretty easy. When my budget needs cutting at home, I can tell you what I cut and why I cut it.

Governor Mitch Daniels is ordering budget cuts left and right due to serious state revenue problems. In this time where state budgets have been so hampered by the economic situation, I don't there's anyone that doesn't appreciate the difficult situation that the Governor and the General Assembly are in. So many things to fund, but there's so little money to do it. I get that part.

The problem is that there have been questions about the Governor's Office and its priorities, and the Governor is doing little to answer the tough questions.

It seems like as each day goes by, another school system is closing a school, laying off tens to hundreds of teachers, or cutting back on services. Governor Daniels blames it mostly on the districts, the teachers and on teachers unions. He will tell you that teachers are greedy and that there are too many administrators. He will say that custodial services and secretaries aren't important. Then, he will increase the standards and saddle the districts with more unfunded mandates.

Education is not escaping "Mitch the Knife", but we don't even know if education needs to be trimmed this much because the Governor won't tell us what has been trimmed in the first place. Governor Daniels is playing a game with the facts and refusing to release specific budget cut information requested by Indiana's Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) according to the Associated Press. Daniels' office is telling Simpson that a list of cuts by the executive branch of Indiana government isn't possible to compile.

"Either the office is totally incompetent or they're keeping secrets," Simpson told the AP. "The public has a right to this information."

So, let me get this straight, Mitch. You are local school districts how they should spend their money, but you won't show us how you're spending yours. My friend, that's a bunch of bull. Not only is it irresponsible, but it seems downright stupid. To think that the Governor's Office would not know what cuts they've ordered requires that office to believe this state is full of a bunch of idiots. Unfortunately, Mitch seems to think that we are all idiots.

When Channel 13 approached his office for clarification on job creation numbers that appeared to be incorrect, he refused to provide the information even though other states nearby readily provide the same documentation.

When Governor Daniels was challenged about whether he would return the campaign money that disgraced financier Tim Durham raised for his PAC, he refused. Daniels said the money already been spent with no indication what on. That load of malarkey was made bigger by the fact that his campaign could have written a check for the money Durham raised and have donated it to charity or returned it dollar-for-dollar and then raised more clean cash.

Daniels has a bad attitude whenever he is questioned on anything, and he now has a track record for blocking transparency in government. I guess we should not be surprised. After all, he was George W. Bush's budget director and was one of the architects of the largest government budget deficit in the history of our country. A fact that was conveniently left out of the 2004 race for Governor.

I think Governor Daniels has been teflon for far too long. The evidence is starting to add up, and everyone is starting to see what Democrats have known all along. Mitch Daniels is Napoleon with a bad haircut. He thinks he's emperor of Indiana and that he doesn't have to answer to anyone. With near complete control of state government and a huge say about what goes on in the largest city in the state, he's darn close. Thankfully, there are some out there that are not willing to agree with Mitch's sense of entitlement -- people like Vi Simpson, Democrat from Bloomington. People like the Democratic House and Senate members who talk until they are blue in the face about how it's been a nightmare dealing with Mitch. Media folks who continue to write good stuff and broadcast reports. Last, but not least, the tireless citizens who refuse to be stepped on by a Governor who needs a step stool to reach the top shelf.

If I were the Governor, I'd find the list that Simpson wanted, and I would release it because the lack of transparency is ironically becoming very transparent.


Louis said...

Your analysis of the governor's lack of accountability is spot-on. When he came to office, his first order was to de-certify the state employee's union, which opened the way for him to re-structure and eliminate positions left and right. There was, undoubtedly, a lot of fat in the government that needed to be gone, but the governor has actually caused more harm than good by going to far.

Take DWD for instance, with which I am very familiar, and in particular the unemployment insurance (UI) program DWD runs. In 2004, Indiana had one of the 10 best states for UI -- claimants were paid timely if they deserved benefits, the UI Trust Fund was in decent order, and overall things were all right (there were some problems of course, but Daniels cannot say DWD was "one of the worst" like he always does about FSSA because it simply was not).

In July 2005, Mitch's hatchet-man DWD Commissioner Ron Stiver wanted to move all UI claims adjudicators to Indianapolis. He gave them one week to decide if they were coming to Indy (from Ft. Wayne, Evansville, Gary, etc.). Obviously, most could not come and lost their jobs or retired. DWD was surprised they had to pay unemployment for those workers (seriously, that's true -- the people over unemployment didn't even know how it works -- and still don't). Also, with the loss of these people, they lost YEARS of institutional knowledge that will probably never be replaced; again, the DWD's poor results speak for themselves.

As a quick side note, most of the state employees the governor and his gang of idiots have gotten rid of over the years have probably received unemployment (the same could go for most of the school employees hatcheted, too). Most public employees who collect UI are almost always paid 100% by taxpayers. How's that feel, taxpayers?

Also in 2005, Daniels hired "Haverstick" to design the "modernized" UI computer system. Gov. Kernan had to cancel the first contract because it was an Indian company. Haverstick was run by Stephen Hilbert of Conseco infamy (and a neighbor of Daniels). Haverstick and Hilbert's wife's company received tax breaks and taxpayer $, and the contract with DWD was about $24 million ($9 million more than the first contract that was cancelled).

Five years later, the system is still not completely functional (far from it), and it will actually cost more than the contract to complete. The system has leaked millions of dollars over the years which has allowed rampant fraud to occur. The head sub-contractor is now an Indian company, which was why the original contract was cancelled in the first place. The US Department of Labor has cited DWD numerous times for the failures of this system (and ethics violations, and many other things), and DWD consistently thumbs its nose at the DOL.

(More on another post)

Louis said...

(Continued from previous post)

Back to the employee situation -- DWD has hired more claims adjudicators than ever before, including Daniels ordering a re-opening of the Ft. Wayne office saying "when Hoosiers are hurting we can't move quickly enough". So, five years ago DWD got rid of most of its experienced people to save money, and has spent more money on more employees with less experience -- a perfect storm of stupidity.

I can't forget the "Leadership Team" at DWD either. Teresa Voors was Commissioner (who was fired, not quit as Daniels' office stated) -- she made over $104,000 (she had a co-commissioner, who called himself the "Chief Operating Officer", who made $5,000 more per year. He used to work at Lilly, was in charge of the modernization, and has since left). Under Voors, she added 4 deputy commissioner positions. One new one is "Senior Deputy Commissioner of Agency Policy and Performance", and she was Daniels' campaign policy advisor in the '04 campaign. Another new position is "Deputy Commissioner of Communications, Marketing and Governmental Affairs", and she was a House Republican Caucus Policy Director.

Another new position is a "Deputy Commissioner of Compliance and Ethics Officer". I can't forget the omnipresent Marc Lotter, press secretary, who used to be a Daniels' campaign and governor's office spokesman (as well as McCain/Palin Indiana campaign spokesman).

Keep in mind, there are 9 commissioner/deputy commissioner positions, all earning between $85,000 and $110,000 per year. DWD, in the 1990s, was run by 3 people. Also, there are now 24 "Broadband Executive/Director" positions at DWD -- they earn between $45,000 and $80,000 per year. DWD is being run by 33 people, with only about 6 having had over 5 years' experience at DWD. The results are evident, and not good.

Here's some final food for thought:

1. Indiana owes the federal government (who are bailing us out) $1.8 BILLION for our insolvent UI Trust Fund.

2. Indiana overpaid claimants $261 MILLION in 2008 (most in the US); this accounted for 26% of total benefits paid out. This was $150 million more than the next closest state, New York. Any coincidence 2008 was the year the Trust Fund went insolvent? Nope.

Nice job, Governor Daniels, our "fiscally conservative" savior.

If anyone wants more information, the UI Board meets on Wednesday, June 16 at 10 AM at the DWD building. Or, if any more information is wanted because the UI Board is a group of DWD/Daniels rubber-stampers, say something on here and we can work something out where I can get you a lot more info than here!

Marycatherine Barton said...

Thanks Jon, Louis, and, of course, Vi. It often seems as if Mitch is part of the global elite that want government to fail the people.