Opinion

Cutting government boards will save some green

TORRENS TALK

Attached to any government entity is some form of a board or commission comprised of citizens who have a vested interest in the purview of that particular area. Some of these are legislated and regulated, some are not. Some are ongoing, some are convened only for a certain purpose and then go away upon completion of that purpose.

The challenge to government is to get rid of those who continue to stick around much longer than anyone intended or no longer serve a useful purpose. The challenge comes from the fact that someone at some time deemed it necessary and proper to have such an entity.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed eliminating a number of state boards and commissions to cut costs. That is commendable. But instead of just proposing only some for removal, and thereby bringing up the spectre of political gaming, why not deal with all of them?

That said, I am not proposing eliminating all of them. What should be done is announce there will no longer be any monies to fund these boards and commissions. If the mission of the group is so needed, then those who are serving should be able to do so on their own nickel.

The best example of that are the Ferry Advisory Committees (FACs). These groups are comprised of ferry users who volunteer all their time and get not one cent in compensation for travel to any of their meetings, unlike the Transportation Commissioners. They have spent untold hours doing the work that in a better time would have been done by ferry staff. They have testified before the state Legislature and traveled to numerous meetings, all on their own time and expense.

Various people in many non-profit entities donate their time and money to provide leadership, guidance and grunt work to make the organization function. They do so because they believe in what they do, they know it is a necessary job and it enables the non-profit to put all its money where it is most needed and not toward overhead.

Regardless of why the state boards and commissions were created, it would seem a very fair thing to say to all of them they will need to do their work without any funding from the state. If nothing else, that will get rid of the dead wood immediately and make others decide whether it is worth their time and investment to keep the group going.

This approach keeps politics at bay. It makes those who believe they should be compensated justify their position. And, given the economic circumstances of the state, that is the way the funding of the boards and commissions should be handled. Proposals should be submitted if people feel they cannot do their job without state monies.

It would be very interesting to see how many on the state Transportation Commission would stay if they had to pay for their own travel. Would Transportation Commissioner Bob Disler be so sanguine about raising fares if he had to pay for his travel?

We all know that government is short on funds and so are the people. The only way out of this is for everyone to make some sacrifices and share the load.

Boards and commissions were created to do work that needed to be done and, for some, still needs to be done. Those groups should keep on doing their work. Only now, they need to take it upon themselves to fund it. If a group as vital to our local economy and well-being as the FACs can do it, so can all the others.

Val Torrens covers local issues for the CK Reporter and North Kitsap Herald.

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