Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Who's really to blame for the financial fix we're in?

Every time there's a conversation these days about the city budget, there is an equally loud conversation in which the participants are complaining about the current city council. The two seem to automatically go hand-in-hand, as if they were conjoined twins.

Like many, I believe this council has not been the most fiscally responsible. In fact, the majority of the current council has spent millions on "wants" instead of "needs." But they are not the biggest problem when we speak of salaries and benefits for city employees.

When that conversation is held, we better make sure to give past councils, especially multiple-term councilors, a large "thank you" for the bind we're in. After all, it is they who continued to approve budgets that included contracts paying the wages so many think are too high, work schedules as they are and the so-called "gold-plated" benefits plan. (Same goes for current and past school boards, by the way.)

Granted, times may have been better then. But be that as it may, we cannot turn back the hands of time and we cannot expect one city council to undo what previous councils have done.

We also have to continually remember that our legislators in Madison are to blame for a large portion of the problem - and, unfortunately, most of them continue to enjoy re-election every two years. Why have we not yet sent them a message at the ballot box and when will we? Or WILL we?

I agree there are cuts to be made, but I am unconvinced they are substantial enough to get us where we need to be budgetarily to avoid what City Hall tells us is inevitable- higher taxes or new fees. I also agree that the unions should be willing to bargain reasonably and fairly, particularly in the area of benefits. But the law and the deals that have been struck with them in previous years only allow so much room for new negotiation today.

Bottom line: the current council needs to make reasonable budget cuts where it can and be more fiscally responsible with our money in the future, and the unions need to make some concessions where it can. But while fingers are being pointed, it's only fair to also point at those in Madison and at our previous city councils, as well as the current one. It is both unreasonable and unfair to expect the current council to fix all the problems others helped create.

- Cheryl


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