Editorial: Administration erred in not enforcing ban

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 17, 2002

It’s disturbing to find out that the Ventura administration has basically failed to enforce a moratorium on state consultants and new employees enacted last year.

It calls into question the administration’s commitment to saving money in government and, although the numbers pale in comparison to the $4.5 billion budget deficit, it’s the last thing we need to hear when the state is looking for ways to save money.

The legislature put a consultant moratorium in place last year, concerned that too much state money was being spent on such things with little oversight. It was one of the few substantive money-saving measures passed during last year’s session, when lawmakers spent all the state’s reserves, shifted

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money to and fro and sped up tax collections to cover the first wave of budget problems.

But the ban included a few exceptions, like for those contracts considered absolutely necessary.

The Ventura administration proceeded to push 94 percent of requests for consultants through the exemption, allowing dozens of not-so-necessary expenses. There was $15,000 for a one-day seminar on &uot;communicating risk&uot; for pollution-control agency employees, $63,000 for a tourism representative in Japan, $1,500 for a speech by a &uot;futurist&uot; &045; the list goes on and on.

There may well be some value in all the expenditures, but that’s not the point. A moratorium was put in place for a reason: to reign in spending at a time when the state needs to pay more attention to where taxpayer money is going.

Administration officials say they achieved the $75,000 in intended savings by cutting department budgets, effectively replacing the moratorium. That, also, is not the point. Knowing the budget trouble the state was in, they should have cut budgets and strictly enforced the moratorium.

Tribune editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s management and editorial staff.