Saturday, November 8, 2008

We're All in the Same Boat (in the Same Storm)

There was a lot of discussion the past few days about our grim 2009 budget, and there'll be a lot more to talk about in the coming weeks.

A couple articles in this month's Governing Magazine help illuminate that we are far from unique in the dire situation we face. States, counties and cities across this country, who all have to balance their budgets (unlike the federal government), are equally strapped, with few good options.

For those interested in these issues, I recommend:

1 comment:

Donald said...

Are there any good options left for budget cutting?

The Public Defender's Office is always a ripe budget target, since few will raise a ruckus over giving fewer resources for indigent defense. But the County is already on notice that the office is stretched to the breaking point: cut more and the County guarantees itself a lawsuit over denying the promise of Gideon.

Cut the Sheriff's office? Sure, maybe we could have a Palin-style auction for the tank, but apart from that, where? Cut crime prevention and crime goes up, dimming the long-term income stream for the county as residents move away.

Some have suggested stopping ongoing projects like the Banks. But that represents important future revenue for the County. (And construction creates jobs--which means revenue.)

Get rid of court reporters? That's guaranteed to cause issues on appeal where the word "unintelligible" is transcribed from an audio tape during a critical moment in a proceeding.

Is there really that much "fat" left in the budget? (I suppose we could all ask ourselves whether the Prosecutor's Office REALLY needs cable TV, but that'll save about 1200 bucks, not even a dent.)

Is the County looking for new revenue sources? You've taken a sales tax increase off the table (I'm not convinced that's the right decision, but it's the one you and Todd Portune have made.) But why hasn't the County seriously looked into a lawsuit against the State for full reimbursement for the PD? (It's happened in other states, I understand.) Why isn't the County demanding reimbursement from communities that use HCSO as their primary law enforcement mechanism instead of their own police forces?

The 2009 budget is going to be painful. Residents are going to see services decline. Long-time, loyal employees will be laid off. You and your fellow commissioners won't be able to hide behind Patrick Thompson's budget recommendations, but will have to actually lead. It's something, frankly, we're not accustomed to seeing from County government. And I write that as a Dem who voted for both you and Commissioner Portune.

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