Friday, June 25, 2010

Houston's Non-Balanced Budget

On Wednesday city council unanimously passed a "balanced" budget, closing a deficit of $140 million through a combination of modest spending cuts, fee increases, and evasion. The Chronicle reports:
Some council members questioned how Parker will cut $22 million in spending during the coming year through unspecified "efficiencies."
In other words, the budget isn't really balanced. Council got within $22 million of doing so and gave up, declaring that the remaining deficit will be eliminated "somehow." Imagine telling your boss that you can save the company money "somehow." Do you really think that he would tell you to run with it? Yet this is precisely what our city "leaders" are telling their boss--the taxpayer.

Evading the sham they are trying to pull, council member Anne Clutterbuck was quick to praise her colleagues:
Clutterbuck, who chairs council's Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee, said Parker and council members should feel proud of a budget "that is balanced in these very difficult financial times." 
Isn't that precious? City council simply took an eraser to the budget, wiped out $22 million, and now they want boast about their "accomplishment." To call this budget balanced is simply a fraud.This is akin to finding yourself short at the end of the month, throwing the electric bill in the trash, and declaring your budget balanced. No matter what you--or council--say, your budget is not balanced and reality will eventually prove it.

So what will happen when these mysterious "efficiencies" do not materialize? What will council do when it realizes that its "balanced" budget exists only in its imagination? My suspicion--based on recent council actions--is that they will pass another non-tax that robs citizens of the money needed to truly balance the budget. And then Ma Parker and her posse will engage in another round of patting themselves on the back for making "tough decisions."

And what "tough decisions" did council make? Despite asking all city departments to cut their budgets by 2%, council refused to do the same with their office budgets. Granted, this would have saved a paltry $110,000 and been largely symbolic in terms of the budget, but it would have demonstrated some measure of integrity. Jolanda Jones, who has complained about not having a shower in her office, explained her reasons for opposing the cut:
If someone calls my office and I don't have staff or resources to help them solve their problem, they're going to be mad at me. ... They're going to be mad at the city.
Apparently Jones wants us to feel sorry for her because her constituents might get mad at her. She doesn't have the imagination to figure out how to do with $8,000 less per year and doesn't want to be bothered with trying to figure out how to do so. Instead, she will just sit on her throne issuing edicts and robbing taxpayers.

Jones of course, is not alone in her sanctimonious disregard for Houstonians. In voting for the non-balanced budget her colleagues demonstrated that they think we are fools. And absent an uproar from the citizenry, perhaps they are right.

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