Come election time we hear politicians say they plan to balance governmental budgets by getting rid of waste, fraud, and abuse. That comment always seems like a dodge to allow the candidate to avoid talking about tough budget choices — and then you run across a story like this.
It turns out that a recent audit of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority identified $43 million in wasteful payments for employee perks and bonuses. The payments included $30 million in unjustified bonuses to management and employees without regard to performance, an employee bowling league, employee bonuses for working on their birthdays, and free E-Z pass transponders, and cash out payments for unused sick days and vacation days. One employee with a base salary of $73,469 earned $321,985 when all payouts and bonuses were included. All of this happened as tolls were being increased.
These kinds of stories are maddening. They confirm our belief that some of our hard-earned tax dollars are being wasted, but they also indicate that agency administrators and legislators are abysmal failures in exercising appropriate oversight. That result shouldn’t be surprising. Digging into the actual uses to which tax dollars are being put is hard work, and most of our legislators aren’t nose-to-the-grindstone types who have any interest in getting into the details. Perhaps it is time to change that?