Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ma's Big "Ifs"

A few weeks ago Ma Parker unveiled her first budget as Mother of all Houstonians. The $4.1 billion budget does not include any tax increases, but does include a number of fee hikes, land sales, a draw down on the city's "rainy day fund", and "efficiencies". According to the Chronicle:
Parker and other city officials warned that deeper cuts could be in store if tax revenues continue to slide. She also acknowledged that the drastic reduction in surplus funds will leave the city with little to no margin for error.
Ma deserves some credit for reducing spending about 3.7% and not raising taxes. But I suspect that that little piece of good news is going to be short lived. Ma admits that the city has little margin for error, and how many times have government budget forecasts been accurate? If I were a betting man, I would not bet against tax increases in the near future.

As part of my evidence:
City Controller Ronald Green sounded a more cautious note, pointing out that the budget has been balanced by anticipated cuts of more than $22 million and about $40 million in land sales that have yet to be realized.

City officials said the $22 million will come from what they termed “efficiencies” in how Houston manages its fleet of more than 12,000 vehicles, as well as consolidation of some employee functions. 
So, the budget will be balanced if the city can somehow figure out how to save $22 million--which it hasn't done yet--and if it can sell land for the value projected. These are some pretty big "ifs". And what happens if these projections fail to materialize? I would suggest holding onto your wallet, because the chances are good that the city will be reaching for it in one form or another.

I would suggest that Ma stop relying on "ifs" and return government to its proper function--the protection of individual rights. Not only could she balance the budget, she could actually cut taxes. But she could do that only if she recognizes the inviolate right of individuals to their own life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. And that, like her budget projections, if a very big "if".

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