Suck it up, taxpayers

September 5, 2008

Is it “breaking faith with taxpayers” when a city administration makes a promise, then gets ousted by voters in favor of a new administration that then decides it can’t keep the promise?

A year ago, the City-County Council, with the full support of then-Mayor Bart Peterson, increased the local option income tax by 65 percent. Many taxpayers were angered by that move but took some solace in the promise that the money would be used to add 100 officers to the police force to confront a surge in violent crime.

Now comes news that despite the tax increase the city can’t afford to add the new officers.

[. . .]

The higher income tax raised $76 million, but about half of the money was siphoned to pay fire department pensions and to shore up the general fund. Most of the rest is going to meet the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s immediate needs.

In exchange for shelling out more of their incomes to the city, residents are now promised the addition of only 40 civilian officers, qualified to take accident reports and respond to vandalism claims. The promise of more professional crime fighters on the streets? That’s been set aside.

Fiscal reality may leave new Mayor Greg Ballard little choice but to break the previous administration’s promise. But it’s a lousy way to treat taxpayers and a poor message to send to the community. Who will trust the mayor or other local leaders to follow through as promised if the need should arise for another tax hike in coming years?

The more a government takes care of daily business, such as paving the potholes and hauling away the trash, the more it is on safe ground with taxpayers. The more long-range its plans, the shakier the ground gets. Plans that obligate future administrations also bind future taxpayers. Anything that goes beyond the current administration, such as multi-year leases (the toll road) or delayed fruition (Harrison Square) should automatically get more scrutiny and skepticism.

When a government raises $76 million in new revenue for soemthing new only to find most of it sucked into existing programs and obligations, that’s not just a public safety problem. That’s a problem of a government that is too big and doing too much.

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5 Responses to “Suck it up, taxpayers”

  1. Doug Says:

    I thought Ballard said the tax increase was unnecessary in the first place and he was going to repeal it. But now, Ballard not only can’t do without the tax increase, he can’t even make it pay for the thing it was unnecessary for.


  2. Politicians think in short term only. They have difficulty accruing funds to pay expenses as they are promised. Examples are pension funds. The property tax relief I hear is supposed to take over unfunded police, fire and teach pensions. In Fort Wayne, these could reach well over $500 million. Now multply this by ten fold or more for the state and there is no balanced budget. All they did was sweep it under the rug.

    You are correct that anything that takes longer the term of the elected at the time an expense has been approved needs to be scrutinized.

  3. Bob G. Says:

    More band-aids on those busted legs.
    I’d say (in Indy), they need to UNSUCK the money from those “obligations”, and get something going on the public safety gig…
    Or they could just ARM ALL THE (law-abiding) CITIZENS.
    (which would be a lot cheaper)

    Betcha crime would REALLY drop in Indy THEN!

    B.G.

  4. kent strock Says:

    Leo,

    It must be easy to write stuff based on the idea of “That’s a problem of a government that is too big and doing too much.”
    This endless variations from your grotto must get boring after awhile-I would think. Seriously, how often can you keep saying the same thing? Don’t you get bored sometimes?

    If your paper wants to do investigative journalism then do it…just don’t pretend you do it. Or at least if you ignore it stop with the relentless ideology crap-it only hamstrings people who want to be journalists.

    If you want leads on corruption in city/county government, I can give them to you. They aren’t hard to find if you look for them. Unfortunately I really doubt that you aren’t aware of them.

  5. kent strock Says:

    Rather than think or report stuff about FW…we get the equivalent of “if it bleeds it leads” from Indy…could you not find something that is going on in FW?


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