Analysis of a 'Budget Cut'
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
To operate at peak effectiveness, the confidence game that
results in bloated bureaucratic budgets -- cancerous allocations
metastasizing far faster than the rate of inflation -- requires two
For the distracted and careworn public to be best deceived, it's
necessary for the legislative branch to first make a stern
pronouncement that the budget proposal in hand is excessive; way out
of line. How dare they even think that we -- jealous guardians of
the public's precious purse strings -- would contemplate such a
budget? It must be slashed, do you hear us, slashed!
Then, when the "slashing" is done, the appropriate department
head is expected to issue a grudging statement of acquiescence,
bravely (albeit with a quivering lip, so near is he to tears) vowing
to "make do, somehow," even if it means recycling the paper clips,
skimping on coal for the stove, and discontinuing the office
For maximum effectiveness, it helps if a few employees in the
background actually appear to be using their hankies and consoling
one another over their shared misfortune. Gazing moodily out the
windows, as though contemplating defenestration, is also permitted.
Under no circumstances, however, should the victim of the
"budget-slashing" smile broadly and point out that -- after the
"slashing" -- his budget for next year will actually be 29 percent
higher than last year's!
It remains to be seen whether Nevada Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren
will now correctly play out this scripted part, in order to conclude
this year's ritual performance of the traditional melodrama "The
Lieutenant Governor's Budget," in which the Nevada Assembly Ways and
Means Committee executed its own role so admirably on June 7.
You see, the current two-year budget for what is arguably one of
the least needed "offices" in the Silver State is $498,900. Mr.
Hammargren -- an idiosyncratic brain surgeon who presumably has more
pressing things to do -- uses this money to pay a "chief of staff,"
former Assemblywoman Jeannine Coward, and for other purposes which
grow less clear to me with time.
I used to believe the lieutenant governor was using these funds
to wine and dine visiting dignitaries and to travel to such hardship
posts as Hollywood, Washington, and the sundry ancient capitals of
Europe, promoting tourism, economic development, and the filming of
more motion pictures in Nevada, the better to perpetuate the notion
that the population of the Silver State consists primarily of
mobsters, lap dancers, and whores, who take time out from rolling the
tourists only long enough to duck their heads as hijacked planes full
of convicts take the roofs off local edifices.
(All these functions, of course, are already delegated to
official state commissions, far better prepared to perform them than
Dr. Hammargren -- though private outfits would doubtless do even
But now Mr. Hammargren asserts "Since my election to office I
have contributed most of my salary back to the state of Nevada by
paying most of my own expenses for much of my travel."
Oh well. Wherever the $498,000 has been going, Mr. Hammargren --
never one to think small -- decided to ask for $744,806 for the next
two years ... a budget hike of 49 percent.
"Slashing" away, the Assembly money committee finally told Mr.
Hammargren he will have to make do on $643,652 -- only a 29 percent
Mr. Hammargren wanted his out-of-state travel budget to be nearly
tripled, from $5,980 to $16,460. The stern-faced committee told the
miscreant will simply have to make do with $11,392 -- a paltry nudge
of 92 percent.
Mr. Hammargren asked that his chief of staff, Ms. Coward -- who
is apparently surviving on stale Saltines and ketchup packets
pilfered from the Capitol cafeteria -- receive a 40 percent raise.
That proposal is still pending.
The end result of these shenanigans? You guessed it: The
Associated Press dutifully reported this week that the lieutenant
governor's proposed budget had been "cut."
Listen: The lieutenant governor of Nevada has no real duties,
except to cast a rare tie-breaking vote in the state Senate. (Though
the last time such an opportunity arose, Mr. Hammargren was nowhere
to be found.)
The time has come for the Legislature to make it clear that the
honorary designation as "emergency replacement governor" is not one
which requires the maintenance of any "office" at all.
Other than such minimal salary for the sole office-holder as may
be constitutionally mandated, this budget item should be reduced to
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas
Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at
http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the
United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box
4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.