Government agencies at all levels have rightfully been under intense scrutiny of late, and for good reason. Every politician, local, state, federal, etc. is bemoaning the impending public services disasters awaiting us due to “revenue” (tax) shortfalls. Yet, as informed citizens are well aware, the problem is not revenue, it's government spending. In some cases however, funding isn't an issue at all. Take for instance, our own San Diego Association of Governments, or “SANDAG”. As specifically described on it’s website, SANDAG is:
“SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, council members, and county supervisors from each of the region's 19 local governments. Supplementing these voting members are advisory representatives from Imperial County, the U.S. Department of Defense, Caltrans, San Diego Unified Port District, Metropolitan Transit System, North County Transit District, San Diego County Water Authority, Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association, and Mexico. Policy Advisory Committees assist the Board of Directors in carrying out the agency’s work program. The Board of Directors is assisted by a professional staff of planners, engineers, and research specialists.”
This agency, which offices in downtown San Diego, is by definition alone, a prime example of why our public infrastructure needs require so many years and often decades to be addressed! Just look for yourself at the number of government entities that are members of this roadblock to progress! It’s a kaleidoscope of business inhibitors!
Let’s review some of the highlighted items listed by SANDAG in their own definitive characterization. I glanced at their 2013 budget, just released this month, and nearly choked on my cup of Starbucks Komodo Dragon coffee when I saw the document consumed 540 pages! After performing a self-Heimlich maneuver and composing myself, I dove head-first into this morass of government jargon and jibberish. The Table of Contents alone consumed seven pages, and I immediately jumped to page 311, which itemized the 2013 Administrative Budget. After a few seconds of review, I ditched my cup of java; no need for caffeine to awaken my senses after reading these numbers!
SANDAG’s “Total Agency Salaries & Benefits” pole-vaulted from $24,850, 569 in 2011 to a 2013 budget of $28,855,021. That’s a staggering 16% in just two years!
I thought there was a budget crisis in Washington and Sacramento?
And what about headcount? The 2011 staff positions totals are not included, but “Regular staff positions” increased from 222 in 2012 to a proposed number of 239 for 2013. Almost 8% in one year. Job growth is alive and well in the government sector!
That calculates to an average salary and benefit total of $120, 732 per SANDAG employee! How does that compare to your total compensation and benefit package, Mr./Ms. Private Sector Employee?
We all know that SANDAG, like every government agency, needs to pay their employees “at or above the private sector in order to maintain staff that have the knowledge and experience that are vital to successfully perform their respective jobs.” Sure. And what, you ask, are we, the tax-payers, receiving in return for subsidizing this agency? Well, for 2013, the “Areas of Emphasis” for SANDAG are, again as documented on their website (see pages 44-45 for vague detail), “Modeling and Research”; “Planning and Forecasts”; “Sustainable Development Strategies”; “Smart Mobility Programs and Services; “Intermodal Planning and Implementation”; and finally, “Internal and External Coordination.”
Want more SANDAG facts that will make you simultaneously laugh and curse out loud? Go to pages 483-486 and review the job classes and salary ranges. Are you familiar with the word “incredulous?” Also, page 312 reveals that “Professional Services” expense more than doubled from $480,100 in 2012 to a budgeted $999,000 in 2013, due to “Disparity Study”, “DBE consultants” (I assume the “Disadvantaged Business Enterprise” program), and “real estate advisory services.” What, Zillow.com isn’t robust enough for real estate consulting?
So much for Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” I think he was actually referring to government employees!