Friday, December 26, 2008

COAST and the 2009 Budget: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

One of my first blog entries discussed the amusing monthly newsletter sent out from leaders at the ironically named COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes). (Ironic, because when COAST leadership and allies ran the County from 2005-2006, they did the exact opposite of their name--they increased spending and administrative/commissioner budgets, broke the County bank on bad deals like Butler County, a costly wild goose chase on the Banks, and selling Drake for far less than its value, and pushed for a tax increase that the voters soundly rejected.)

Well, since my initial blog, they've been ranting for six months about the "big taxing, big spending" budget that the County Commission planned on passing for 2009. I thought it'd be interesting to do a full inventory of their budget claims, and what the truth ultimately turned out to be:

- On July 3, they proclaimed that we were planning to raise the sales tax. At the time, I said that was false, and it turned out to be.

- On August 7, they claimed we were "back again", this time with plans to raise an "arts" tax. Honestly, I still have no idea what they were talking about. Needless to say, no arts tax proposal has ever come forward.

- On August 7, they criticized us for spending too much--even though we had just imposed 6% across the board cuts, cutting even further into the unanimous (meaning, it was supported by their ally Pat DeWine) 2008 budget, which had already cut things that COAST and its allies had never bothered to cut when they actually were in charge.

- On August 7, they also attacked us for refusing to reallocate money that we invest promoting our region for conventions and visitors. I've repeatedly debunked how their proposed move would be both illegal, and economically unwise, as, due to our investment, this is one of the few parts of our economy that is growing--doing so at record pace. Oh well.

- And on October 24, they put out the false word that we had decided to spend County dollars on Planned Parenthood, another false accusation, but unfortunately one that effectively deceived thousands of concerned citizens. In a later newsletter, they even tried to fool their followers that the state money involved there could be spent on our general fund budget, another completely false statement.

- Then came our budget hearings. Once again, they said we planned to raise the sales tax, they pushed us again to illegally reallocate Convention Center money, said we had cancelled managed competition (when we have just implemented one successfully), etc. Yawn. More broadly, they said we were planning to continue our "spending binge," even though our prior two budgets, and the spending therein, had been unanimously approved with their ally (Commissioner DeWine), and we were about to pass a budget that reduced spending by $30m, to a level of 1999 spending--and far below the spending increases they oversaw when in charge.

- But their (and my) new favorite topic was their accusation that we were not cutting from our own so-called "bloated" commissioner and administrator budgets as we made tough cuts elsewhere. Ironically, it was when COAST leadership and allies ran the County that this part of the budget became, in their words, "grossly bloated" in the first place: on their watch, the Commissioners added administrative staff, several of whom made $140k+ per year; spent dollars on outside contracts, equipment, redesigned kitchens, rip-off consultants whose reports sit on shelves, etc.

- As I explained in an earlier blog, after COAST leadership and its allies left after my election, we have taken a hacksaw to all that spending--getting rid of high paid positions (both those who directly served the commissioners, and some who reported to the administrator), reducing other commissioner/administration spending dramatically, etc. In all, the commissioner/administration budget we inherited has been reduced by 45%. And in our 2009 budget, we reduced that budget by about 30%, and imposed furloughs for the greatly reduced staff that remains to do all the work that was previously done by the far larger and higher paid COAST leadership team.

- To cap it all off, on Monday we passed the most fiscally conservative budget in decades. We didn't raise taxes. We took spending to the level it was at in 1999. This was challenging, and involved a lot of painful cuts, but it was necessary--given the economy in particular.

This budget not only defied all of COAST's predictions, accusations and attacks, but also stands in stark contrast to the record of COAST leadership/allies themselves, who increased spending when they were in in charge, and made none of the cuts our 2008 and 2009 budgets did. Simply put, our level of spending is well below the level left by COAST leadership and allies at the end of 2006.

Of course, even as we rejected new taxes and dramatically reduced spending, the Coalition Against Additional Spending and Taxes still couldn't seem to get the math (or at least their own principles) right. Their final missive contained, predictably, the same old criticisms. Beyond even that, though, they criticized us for NOT supporting NEW SPENDING.

Believe it or not, the final DeWine budget proposal was essentially to lay off more sheriff's deputies, gut future economic development, and use that money to rush headlong (the new DeWine "plan" was still being drafted 25 minutes after our final budget meeting began) into another long-term jail rental deal--but this time in Campbell County. Given that the 2006 Butler County deal (draining $10M from the county's reserves) is a primary reason we're in the mess that we're in , and that we currently have more than 100 empty beds in our corrections system, rushing headlong into another long-term rental commitment made no sense.

So we voted against this major, reactive, out-of-the-blue commitment of new spending.

But to end the year on a final strange and head-scratching note, the Coalition against additional spending actually attacked us for rejecting this new spending.


Anonymous said...

Read An Elephant in the Room and that's all you need to figure out COAST. They're all about media clips and truth isn't a prerequisite.
The current BOCC has buried them and I think the public has gotten the picture.
But wasn't COAST leadership elected to office for the HCGOP? What needs to be done, is, draw a line from COAST and their blunders with the GOP and make the public realize that their tactics and fiscal hypocricy are one in the same.
Just like the public learned what the GOP, nationally, does when in full power and control - the local GOP did and has done in Hamilton County.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. They really are a joke.

Are they allowed to just lie like that, over and over?

Anonymous said...

Perception is is how different people perceive things that counts.

An elephant in the room? or from the book "The Last Lecture"?

Anonymous said...

Given all their obvious lies, deceptions and hypocrisies, COAST has no credility, real or perceived. Its sort of embarssing, actually.

Anonymous said...

everyone is entitled to an opinion and to state what they believe is real. Even though you may believe it is a lie others may not. Try to be a little more open minded to instead of calling people liars.

Anonymous said...

Uh, at a certain point, facts are facts, and hypocrites are hypocrites. All year, COAST newsletters have said things (factual assertions, not just opinions) that were flatly false and worse. They spread these lies to thousands of citizens.

It's about time they got called out on it.

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