It was an unfortunate week in Hamilton County. The courts are refusing to consider budget cuts for next year. And they and other departments continue to suggest the only thing we can do is raise the sales tax. There are two pretty straightforward responses:
Principle 1. The problem in our county, as it is across the country, is not that our tax rate is too low. It's that economy activity is severely depressed. A couple years ago, this county saw about $270M in revenues from our various revenue streams. With the same tax levels today, we're below $230M in revenues this year. Solving that problem means we need to do everything we can to spur economic growth, consumer confidence, job retention and creation, etc.--and we're doing everything in a tough environment to get that done. But especially at a time where we finally are seeing a potential break in the economy, raising the sales tax takes us in exactly the wrong direction.
Principle 2. We simply can't spend what we don't bring in. It's a concept every business and every family has to contend with every day--you can't spend money you're not bringing in. And it's a concept all levels of government, including this County and all of its departments, need to live within now more than ever. So if we're bringing in less, we have to spend less. No way around this simple concept.
You combine these two principles, and the path in front of us is pretty clear, if not easy. We have to do all we can to get our economy going again. And in the meantime, every part of this County has to get through this challenging time by living within our more narrow means--which means finding ways to do more with less, to be more frugal, to set and stick to priorities, to change bad habits, to eliminate waste, to cut back on anything but bare necessities, and even to make sacrifices we otherwise would not want to make if that's what gets our budget numbers in line.
All the press conferences, letters, and public statements in the world will not change this basic reality.
And look around--it's the same reality everyone else in this community is also grappling with, with far less fanfare and noise than government.