Who said anything about money? We’re talking budgets here.
I don’t know much about what’s going on in other offices in the state Capitol, but in the House Finance Committee room we’re doing budget overviews. What that means in regular English is this:
A commissioner – the head of one if the main departments – rounds up his or her chief subordinates (or at least the ones who couldn’t run fast enough) and drags them to Finance. There, she or he tells the assembled legislators about all the wonderful things his or her people have done in the past year, and all the stupendous things they will do in the next year as long as they are given even more money.
Not that they spend much time talking about money at all. In this way, they are like car salesmen who try to seduce buyers with the six-position power seats and fine Corinthian leather instead of explaining that the vehicle they’ve steered you toward costs as much as the gross national product of Tonga.
And if a money question manages to penetrate their defenses, they toss it to some underpaid figure filbert who tries to blow it to smithereens with a volley of numbers that leaves everyone in the room stunned and complacent.
Fortunately, this is just the first – not the only – encounter your elected officials have with the budget. There will be meetings of the budget subcommittees and the full Finance Committee, a floor vote or two, then the budget will go over to the Senate for similar treatment. The Senate sends a somewhat different budget back to the House. The House rejects the amended budget, a conference committee is named and the real fun begins.
And you wonder why the jury is still out on democracy.
I don’t believe we’ve met
One result of all these overviews is that I’ve had a chance to at least see a bunch of new commissioners. Gov. Sean Parnell pretty much cleaned house after the election—so far I’ve met the Commissioners of Administration, Health and Social Services, Commerceand Fish and Game. The new Attorney General stopped in, and the Commissioner of Education is so new he isn’t even in office yet, so a deputy filled in. The only people I knew from the entire cabinet are Maj. Gen. Tom Katkus, who I first met when he was a cop and I was an ink-stained wretch, and Dan Sullivan, who used to be Attorney General but has moved to the Department of Natural Resources. I don’t know if all these changes will make the government better, but they sure will make it different.
Happy Birthday, Priya
I want to take a moment to wish a happy birthday to Priya Keane, who turned the ripe old age of 26 this week. Anyone who had anything to do with my office during the past three years came away with the entirely accurate impression that she is smarter, more accomplished and friendlier than her boss. She decided to go off to postgraduate education, and swears her decision had nothing to do with working with me. Honest.
Volunteer of the Year Awards
If you happen to know one of those special individuals who make the rest of us look bad by giving back to the community all the time, First Lady Sandy Parnell is looking for nominees for the 2011 First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Awards. The awards recognize individual Alaskans for outstanding community service. Nominations are due by February 21st, and recipients will be recognized in April, for National Volunteer Appreciation Month.