The Budget Impasse

The following is a letter to the editor that I sent to the Tribune-Review on December 23, regarding the impasse over the county’s budget, and the reality of the situation.  I want to share it with you in its complete, unedited form.

 

Dear Editor:

 

Your December 23 article about the county’s budget misses the whole point of the impasse.  It is not about threats to shut down the government.  It is about integrity and honesty in the budgeting process.

 

Over the past several weeks all three commissioners worked together to finalize a 2011 budget that cut millions in unnecessary spending, invested where prudent, and did not raise taxes.  There was an even exchange of ideas and proposals.  Some were accepted; some were not.  But never once were ideas viewed as mine or that of my colleagues’, or as “Democratic” or “Republican”.  They were either valid or not.

 

During this process Commissioner Anderson never once proposed any significant specific cuts to spending.  In fact, he voted to raise salaries for county employees and approve spending on certain contracts for 2011 just moments before voicing his opposition to the budget.  This blatant inconsistency is remarkable, and should have been more thoroughly exposed by your newspaper.

 

We cannot budget properly by using hypothetical numbers and random reductions like Commissioner Anderson proposes.  Imagine doing your family’s budget by just inserting fantasy figures in your checkbook.  It just doesn’t work.  For the county to budget this way is unrealistic and an insult to taxpayers, who rightfully expect us to take our responsibilities seriously.

 

I am sure that Commissioner Anderson is getting the kudos he sought from Republican operatives and party bosses for his opposition.  But for the overwhelming majority of county residents who simply want good government, they see this as the self-serving sham it really is.

 

Now, because letters limit the number of words you can use, I’d like to elaborate a little more.  First, I never threatened to “shut down” government and I specifically told the paper that I have no interest in doing so.  This issue got blown way out of hand due to a response that Commissioner Balya gave to a question.  But, of course, that newspaper will go out of its way to lump he and I together and paint the “bad democrats” as somehow conspiring to shut down the government.

 

So, where do we go from here?  It will be interesting to see whether or not Commissioner Anderson actually comes back to us with concrete proposals to cut spending.  Anything less will be just theater, and a continuation of his overly simplistic approach to budgeting.  If he has genuine ideas to cut spending I will gladly do it, but I refuse to cut money now just to add it later, thinking this somehow makes our budget look better.

 

It’s high time that we quit giving elected officials a free pass when it comes to hypocrisy and dishonesty.  It should be exposed every time.

 

Now, I am confident we can and will resolve this, but it can’t be done with smoke and mirrors.  We owe it to the taxpayers who pay our salaries to be honest and straightforward with them and give them a county budget they can trust.