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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Control of state expenditures

  • Last month our Secretary of State, Mark Martin, addressed the Heber Springs Rotary Club.  His message was short, sweet and something you hardly hear from any of today’s politicians.

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  • Last month our Secretary of State, Mark Martin, addressed the Heber Springs Rotary Club.  His message was short, sweet and something you hardly hear from any of today’s politicians.
    Secretary of State Martin told us their business office had combined central and support operations and changed position titles and salaries.  That alone allowed them to reduce the fiscal year appropriation by 350 thousand dollars.  They implemented new budget reports to keep themselves focused on fiscal goals.  So far, on a year to year comparison, that has saved over a half million dollars.
    How refreshing it is to have a politician stand before you and relate the reduction in expenditures instead of bragging about all the new programs to help you.  You know the sales pitch – the government is here to help regardless of taxpayer’s cost.
    To accomplish these savings, as so often the case, his office followed through with savings of small expenditures as well as larger ones.  They discontinued unused telephone and modem lines saving seven thousand a year.  They eliminated 20 cell phones saving over 19 thousand dollars in one year.  They installed more efficient lighting and motion sensors around the building.  This resulted in decreasing the lighting meter by 12 percent.
    Just think if all our state and county officials placed the same emphasis on saving taxpayer dollars instead of spending these dollars, how much more efficient our government would be.  Applying this concept to the federal government would result in gigantic savings.  As we all know the practice of the federal government with its thousands of agencies and departments is to make sure all allocations of monies are spent each fiscal year so that another 5 to 8 percent can be added to the baseline for the next fiscal year.
    Contrast this work by our Secretary of State who just happens to be a Republican with the general operations of other departments and the leadership of Governor Beebe.  Remember just a few short months ago when the Republicans were trying to reduce the increase in state expenditures to no more than the increase in the cost of living?  Governor Beebe was adamant the state just couldn’t come up with any more savings -period.  According to him all increases were absolutely necessary.
    Playing petty politics, his only suggestion if he was forced to do so, was to reduce or eliminate the funding for the head of the Department of Education.  This is the position the Republicans and the Attorney General insisted be replaced because the governor filled it with a non-qualified partisan buddy who was his running mate in the 2010 election.
    As a prime example of questionable expenditures by our state officials consider the case of Clare Bailey, the Director of the State Department of Information Systems.  In October she traveled to Malaysia for an international conference.  The conference officials assured Ms. Bailey that they would pay for economy airfare and all meals – there would be no cost for her or the state government.
    Page 2 of 2 - As reported in the April 1st edition of the Dem-Gaz a funny thing happened on this little junket to Malaysia.  It seems Ms. Bailey upgraded her flight to first class which increased the cost from $1,800 to $6,000.  When asked by the Dem-Gaz why the upgrade, she informed the newspaper it was recommended by her doctor due to her health.  One wonders why she would embark on a trip to Malaysia if her health was an issue.  
    Now here is the interesting part – on March 15th she mailed checks totaling over $3,300 to the state reimbursing them for part of her Malaysia trip.  That was one day after a reporter asked her in an email whether she had traveled overseas with the state paying all or a part of the tab.
    Ms. Bailey couldn’t be reached to ask why the timing of her reimbursement was so suspicious.  The deputy director of that department said, “I think your inquiry served as a tickler to make that a priority and get that done.”  Wouldn’t it be better to say, I screwed up and now that I’m found out I will pay up?
    Matt DeCample (Governor Beebe’s confidant) informs us that department heads don’t need to seek the approval of the governor to go on overseas trips as part of their jobs, but they usually give the governor a ‘heads-up’ about their plans.  Might it be a good idea to have some control over these kind of trips that are usually quite expensive.  Ms. Bailey’s trip was just one of many that were noted in the Dem-Gaz, and we rightfully wonder how many other questionable trips were made by the thousands of state employees.
    This whole episode points back to Secretary of State Martin’s attempt to control state expenditures and how little of this oversight and control exists encompassing all state government expenditures.  This is what happens and what you expect to happen when you have one political party predominantly in control for the last 150 years.
    (Jerry Jackson of Heber Springs writes his “conservative viewpoint” column each Wednesday)
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