- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

Apparently, Virginia's state government does have some jobs that can be done without. On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner announced that the state will shed at least 1,000 and perhaps as many as 2,500 employees (none of them faculty at state-funded colleges and universities, incidentally). The cuts are among measures being taken and under consideration to deal with a significant budget shortfall and declining tax revenues. It's one of those rare occasions when Mr. Warner, a liberal Democrat, has done something other than push for new taxes including a bump in the state sales tax and the creation of a new regional taxing authority to deal with the problem. Until now, he has taken the position that every aspect of Virginia's expansive and growing state government is vital and that no further cuts were possible. On several occasions he has also trotted out the old nag that "schools" and "children" will suffer unless Richmond gets its tribute. Clearly, his wailing and gnashing of teeth were a bit over the top.

Mr. Warner's announcement comes, for example, on the heels of the recent (and rather embarrassing) public disclosure that several employees of the Virginia Department of Transportation were caught spending hours per day on the Internet checking out pornographic Web sites at taxpayers' expense. These clearly non-essential personnel were dismissed and apparently will not be replaced.

Surely, there are other positions, personnel and functions the state can do without as well, if the alternative is maintaining them by forcing Virginians to pay even more taxes in the middle of a recession, at a time when the total tax burden is already unconscionably high. Tax relief not further tax increases is called for.

The state of Virginia employs some 112,300 people, a population equivalent to that of a good-sized town. They can't all be "necessary," let alone "vital," and many of the programs they administer surely can be trimmed or even done away with if no compelling case can be presented for their continued existence. The people of Virginia have no choice but to live within their means. Why should it be any different for Mr. Warner and the state government?


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