A plan to close a $220 million deficit in the state budget by cutting $125 million in aid to towns and cities has not gone over so well with local leaders. Apparently the notion that they could accommodate this lost revenue by cutting costs has not crossed the minds of some mayors and managers, as Gov. Carcieri pointed out in a press release today:
It is no shock that the Governor’s supplemental budget, the corrective action plan to close a $220 million gap for the fiscal year we are living now, has been met with fierce opposition. Almost immediately, legislators and municipal leaders cried that towns and cities will have to raise taxes and that the Governor is shifting the burden from the state to the municipalities. Old habits are hard to break. For decades, budget problems have been solved by sending the bill right to the taxpayers instead of reining in expenditures.
The fact is that they do not have to raise taxes. They have other options. Municipal leaders and state legislators have it within their power to remedy the fiscal stress municipalities are feeling. The towns and cities need to do what has been done on the state level: place tight constraints on spending and go to their workers to seek contract concessions to get us through this tough time. This means all workers, teachers included.
The General Assembly needs to give the towns and cities the tools they need to manage their budgets and to release them from the stranglehold state laws have put them in. For the last two years the Governor has proposed reforms that would give towns and cities the ability to reduce costs. The General Assembly did not act on them. He is submitting a package of reforms again in this coming session and is urging the Assembly to act immediately on these proposals. Too much time has been wasted already.
Do we hear an ‘amen’ from our readers? For an online version of this release, click here.