Secret's Out on Over-Funded Constitutional Offices
Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) has been the target of constant media assaults. Many of those attacks were on the grounds that he was wasting taxpayer dollars. The attacks focused on specifics while leaving off important details. For example, he took heat for purchasing a new vehicle, but few of those reports were fair-minded enough to note that Martin's predecessor, Democrat Charlie Daniels, turned in four vehicles as he was walking out the door. Even after the purchase, Martin's office has fewer vehicles than did his predecessor.
Martin took the attacks and quietly kept doing his job. Eventually, the financial picture became clear. Today, after eight months on the job, Martin announced that the Secretary of State's Office has a $3.2 million surplus which can be returned to the state Treasury. He spent 17.8% less than his office was budgeted. This is a perfect example of how the media can paint a false picture by harping on only one detail and ignoring the bottom line.
Martin's #1 media critic, ArkTimes editor Max Brantley, is so obsessive-compulsive about running down Mark Martin, that in his angry reaction to the news he let out dirty little secret. It turns out that every constitutional office is deliberately over-funded! Max ranted that since everyone of them is funded with a 15% cushion then Martin was taking credit for nothing. He then produced stats that showed the Treasurer was going to come in 14% under budget and the auditor 15.4% under budget. The Attorney General came in 16.3% under budget, but he has been suing people with lawyers paid from the public treasury and then stuffing the awards back into his own office. Martin did not have the advantage of this illegal tactic when he trimmed 17.8% off of his budget.
I certainly did not know that state constitutional offices were deliberately over-funded so that the amount they really expect to spend is only 85% of what they get. I talked to a couple of other folks who have been around at the capitol and they did not know it either. I am not sure that Martin knew it- his current operating budget was set by his Democratic predecessor who at the time thought that a Democrat would succeed him. Did you know it?
At a time when families are straining to make ends meet all those constitutional offices are over-funded and none of them ever bothered to mention it to us- until now. And that was only in a desperate attempt to maintain the dishonest picture they have painted of Martin. It sure was not done in an attempt to ID waste and excess in government spending. It appears Martin himself is the only one trying to do that.
Their attempt falls flat anyway. Whether he spent 17.8% less than expected or 2.8% less depends on where you start measuring from and is not the point anyway. The point is that by either standard the official story that Martin is some sort of wasteful big-spender simply cannot possibly be true. They may question this particular expenditure or that one, but on the whole the numbers speak for themselves.
Oh, but there is one more extremely important point here. The Governor's office did not let Martin stake the claim to saving a larger percentage of the budget than any constitutional officer. They claimed (though no one can ever be sure with Mr. Beebe) that they are going to spend 25% less than their budget. Now that's a pretty big pile of money that the Governor has accumulated, so let me take you back a week or so....
You may recall that Rep. Donna Hutchinson (R) Bella Vista and Governor Mike Beebe got into a spat very recently. Beebe slashed money for some foster children's programs by about 50% to get an extra $1.59 million out of the budget. Beebe blamed Republicans in the state legislature for the budget cuts, saying that they passed more tax cuts than he thought sound, and that the money for that had to come from somewhere. The cuts began days ago (July 1st).
Excuse me Governor. Two weeks ago you were telling us that you had to cut the money to foster children's programs because "the tax cuts had to be paid for somehow." Now, in an effort to keep Martin and his employees from getting some kudos, you claim that your own office is only going to need to spend 75% of the money allotted to it! You had the extra money in your own office all along, but instead of using it, you cut the kid's money and played the blame game.
Contrast the Governor's contemptible behavior with that of Secretary Martin. In the press release, Martin offers the savings from his office as a possible solution to the problem, "Our success at increasing the efficiency of the office has resulted in a clear benefit to the taxpayers. For example, this savings could be used to prevent the cuts in the foster care program, and if not, maybe they can be part of a future tax cut. Of course, that is a decision for the legislature and Governor to make.” Martin writes.