Fueled by voter distrust and discontent, the political winds have many politicians, once thought to be invincible, quaking in their boots these days.

It's certainly not been a good year so far for political dynasties. Rhode Island politics got rocked earlier this month when Rep. Patrick Kennedy decided not to seek re-election. His decision will leave Washington without a Kennedy in political office for the first time in more than 60 years. The decision came less than a month after Republican Scott Brown stunned the political world by winning the Massachusetts Senate seat Kennedy's father held for almost half a century.

For those who are advocates of downsizing government and finding ways to limit spending on a state level, an attorney named Robert Healy Jr. may become a model for the average Joe, and we don't mean Joe Biden.

Healy is running for lieutenant governor of Rhode Island on the Cool Party ticket, a party which he founded. To demonstrate his seriousness for limited government, the bearded barrister has made a campaign promise that should win some applause among Tea Party members.

If he wins the election, Healy says he will accept no salary, and will dismiss the nine staff members currently in that office, thus saving taxpayers about a million dollars per year. The top paying positions in the office include Elizabeth H. Roberts, who became Rhode Island's first female lieutenant governor in 2006, who earns $99,214, and Jennifer L. Wood, chief of staff/general counsel, who is paid $148,288.

In explaining his reasoning to ax the position if he wins it, Healy says that the only function of the office is to be there in case the governor is incapacitated or dies. In that case, if elected he said his staying alive to simply warm the seat will cost the people of Rhode Island nothing since he will forfeit the salary.

Healy says getting elected to the office in order to get rid of it is something he has contemplated since 1994. Given the present political climate and the mounting budgetary concerns on both the federal and state levels, he feels the time is right for his plan to begin retooling state government.

His strategy to abolish the office is made possible by Rhode Island having the governor and lieutenant governor running separately and listed on different ballots. Although dissolving the position would still have to go through a constitutional process, Healy says he would still stand by his campaign pledge to not take a salary and dismiss the nine-member staff.

A million dollar saving for staff may not seem like that much, when compared to Washington's drunken spending or considering the mounting debt crisis of many states, but Healy feels it's time to start somewhere so why not downsize starting from the top?

Cutting back on big government by trimming from the executive branch is one concept that sounds like a good plan for Washington as well as for the many state governments in the country which are financially hemorrhaging.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com