Spending, budgets, and remembering whose money it isWritten by Maggie Thurber | Toledo Free Press Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
Everywhere you turn these days, you find discussions of spending and budgets. Governments, businesses and organizations are issuing dire predictions of gloom and doom if they don’t get more money from somewhere.
Of course, most of the beggars seem to somehow forget that, eventually, someone has to pay for all that money — and that ends up being you and me.
The City of Toledo is trying to figure out how it is going to cover a $10 million deficit to balance out 2008. Leaders are also struggling with what to do to address a deficit of up to $23 million for 2009.
This year, they did not eliminate any unnecessary spending. Instead, they did some across-the-board cuts and made some efforts to streamline services, especially in the trash collection area. They also sought out more revenue — more taxes and fees — from residents. Despite “finding” ways to fund a police and fire class, neither class will be hired — maybe not even in 2009.
District 6 Councilwoman Lindsay Webb said, during an interview with me on “Eye On Toledo,” that if she knew then what she knows now, she would not have voted to fund the opening of the pools this summer. But what about the other council members? Do you think they’ve learned anything new about priorities, or will we still see funding for nonessentials (such as the youth commission and council “discretionary funds”), while the numbers of police and fire decrease?
And then there’s Lucas County and the proposed increase in the conveyance fee. As I said when Pete Gerken first proposed the reorganized structure of the Lucas County Improvement Corporation (LCIC), the organization had no permanent source of funding — and what funding there was certainly was not enough to support the structure being proposed and the expected costs. Rather than design an organization that matched the available funds, the thought was to “worry about those little details later.” It’s now later and a tax increase is on the table.
The LCIC is a good organization and there have been recommendations made that could reduce the costs needed to support the organization. But the cost cutting isn’t happening prior to the funding request.
That’s just backwards!
Various elected officials throughout the county who are members of the LCIC support this increased tax — but if people are taxed to provide the funding for the LCIC, they and their jurisdictions no longer need to spend money out of their general funds — or not as much. No wonder the increased conveyance fee is so popular.
But whenever government decides to collect more money, organizations come out of the woodwork to get a share of it, and the conveyance fee is no exception. The Toledo Housing Trust Fund was expanded to the Toledo-Lucas County Housing Trust Fund with the express intent of getting money from Lucas County, specifically, that final dollar collectible through the conveyance fee.
So now the Lucas County commissioners are trying to figure out how to placate the needs and the wants when it comes to this potential revenue.
The state of Ohio is also facing budget problems. Gov. Ted Strickland has ordered cuts in various departments, and has actually been proactive in making cuts earlier, rather than later, in the budget cycle. However, he increased eligibility criteria for Medicaid and, as a result, increased the number of people who could get state funding through this program.
He’s now asking the federal government to give Ohio some money so we don’t have to make cuts in services.
Again, government has no money it doesn’t first take from someone else, namely you and me.
Unfortunately, too many people fail to understand this fact. Many think that the money the government has comes from “rich people” or “evil corporations.” While it’s true that the “rich” pay more, remember that the top 25 percent of wage earnings make $62,000 or more (2005 IRS figures). That means most government workers, especially police and fire who earn overtime, are “rich,” as are most union workers, such as those at Jeep.
So while you and I are scrimping and saving, government thinks we still have enough money to give more to them for them to spend as they want.
Remember: every time elected officials tell you they need to raise a fee or increase a tax, they’re saying they need the money to spend on their pet project more than you need that money to pay your utility bills, pay for your children’s education, save for your retirement or pay your mortgage.
Who can spend your money better? You or the government?
Former Lucas County commissioner Maggie Thurber is host of WSPD 1370 AM’s “Eye on Toledo,” weeknights from 6 to 7 p.m. She blogs at http://thurbersthoughts.blogspot.com.