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Thursday, August 19, 2010

OpEd: Evansville: Budgets: "Getting to ZERO"

All across America cities and states are facing difficult budget seasons where they review the programs of the past that cannot be funded given the decline in revenue from federal or state aids, or tax revenue. The first of the attempts is to hold the line in actual dollars spent to prior year levels---as opposed to a rubber stamp for a 4% increase or so. The days of the rubber stamp are over.

The difficulty with the ZERO is that to get to zero requires that if wage contracts are honored, some programs and yes some staff have to be furloughed....yes some fees have to go up....and some taxes have to go up. There is just no other way the arithmetic works, unless we have some "grants" to bail us out, the "grants" being from the federal government, which is us, and which will, and is coming to get us in taxes as we speak....

In each of the past four decades there have been times of austerity. If you flip back you can remember or research these---from the recession of 1970 and the closing of Gisholt Machine Works in Madison, to the layoffs at Oscar Meyer, to the recession of 1981 to the Crash of 1986 etc.....

The Past is gone.

This is going to be a difficult budget season for everyone, and the deal has been changed on the State and Federal level. The days of everyone advocating for themselves and working to see their pet projects approved is over....Programs will be cut....Sacrifices will be made....as they have in the past. Dreams for programs will be put on hold for a later date--delayed and not destroyed....When things get better we can take the dreams out of the file cabinet and plan....or maybe our kids will take the files out of the file cabinet.

This is not the time for unseemly ranting...It is the time to reflect on how to make reasonable promises that can be kept over time...and review the ones that have been made in the past that are in jeopardy of being broken. Were the promises from the State to our schools broken? Will the promises to our seniors be broken? Will the promises to our civil pensioners be broken?

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