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We get an 'F' in reducing waste, spending

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Op-ed from Joe Turner in Columbia City about the failings of government, and generally most people, when it comes to curbing spending.


The third Monday of August 1979 I was summoned to the battalion commander's office and informed I was being volunteered to assist Rep. Phil Graham, D-Texas, and accountants from the Congressional Budget Office investigating military readiness and expenditures. My only question was, do I follow Army Regulations or can I tell the

truth?

Our first stop was A Company hangar to find a UH-1 helicopter awaiting a new starter/generator, where I explained it took an experienced electrician 25 minutes to remove and replace it and 20 minutes for the electrician and test pilot to perform a test flight to adjust the voltages — which, under Army Regulations, for anything less than a two-hour repair a helicopter can be reported combat-ready. The problem was that new bolts must be used during the installation which were currently on a 210-day backorder from the manufacturer, so in reality the helicopter could not be started.

Eventually the investigation led to the Graham-Lotta Budget Bill in 1981 signed into law by President Reagan. The bill increased military spending and major cuts in discretionary and entitlement spending.

While working in the position of purchasing agent/accounts payable at the state hospital complex located in Eastern Oregon, the director of Oregon Department of Human Services asked agencies to identify and reduce wasteful spending starting in July 1990; with three months remaining before the end of the biennial period, I reported a savings of approximately $326,000, which the on-site managers thought was too much and directed an increase in spending until June 15, at which point vendors could no longer deliver their goods before the end of the biennial on June 30, which left us with a savings of approximately $113,000. In 1997 I supported an aggressive school bond levy to hire 12 new teachers, open 10 new classrooms, replace 75 percent of the old, worn-out textbooks, and add 50 percent more computers to the lab. After the bond levy was passed, the superintendent and school board hired only two new teachers, opened only one new classroom, replaced only 20 percent of the textbooks and added 20 percent more computers; spending the majority of the new funds on six new high-paid non-teaching administrative positions and a new football coach.

Pamplin Media Group reported (see "Tax increase options include billions in potential state revenue," Dec. 14) that, since the failure of Ballot Measure 97, Gov. Brown, the state Legislature and Legislative Revenue Office are recommending things such as a 5 percent tax on meals eaten at restaurants, 2-cents tax on each 12 ounces of soda, and eliminating the 2 and 3 percent discounts when paying property taxes early, with no mention of reducing government spending or downsizing.

Why is it so hard for government agencies to reduce spending and waste? But then again, why can't average people?

About the author

Joe Turner is a disabled veteran who served 10 years in the U.S. Army, including 19 months in Vietnam and 30 months in Germany. He has degrees in accounting and business management, and has worked in his professional life as a purchasing agent and in accounts payable. He lives in Columbia City.