Every tax is a pay cut. Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation
|Skewed Reporting||February 18, 2004|
|Linda Dunbrack (Framingham)||Metrowest Daily News|
I was both encouraged and disappointed by the Framingham Taxpayer's
Association's (FTPA) report on salary and wage increases, referenced in
the MWDN on Feb. 11 and Feb. 13. It was a good first effort, despite
its flaws. The report was generally thoughtful, constructive, and FTPA
made an effort to be objective.
FTPA highlighted the need for wage increases to be negotiated based on three criteria: competitiveness, inflation, and sustainability in an inherently up and down economy, rather than on the basis of what money is available in any particular year. FTPA concluded that the town has ensured that wages are competitive; that wages have increased more than inflation in our region; and, as a result, these wages have not been sustainable as evidenced by layoffs and the 2002 override.
To improve sustainability, FTPA recommended that the town adhere to existing policies about developing long-term budget forecasts and about maintaining an amount in its stabilization of at least five percent of the town's operating budget.
However, determining what is fair for wages requires bearing in mind all three criteria mentioned by FTPA: competitiveness, inflation, and sustainability. What the FTPA paper failed to acknowledge and analyze is that increasing wages at a rate greater that the rate of inflation is not necessarily a bad thing, if it is required to keep wages competitive. It is premature to imply that wages are too high without objectively measuring this fundamental trade-off, and FTPA made no attempt to do so.
Likewise, it is presumptuous to claim that the wage increases are fair without considering the trade-off between salary increases and sustainability. Were previous wage increases fair to those who were laid off during this down economy when they became unaffordable? Were they fair to taxpayers, whose property taxes have increased dramatically over the past three years?
It is unfortunate that the MWDN chose to focus only on the FTPA perspective on wages and inflation and to ignore other legitimate points contained in FTPA's paper. Such skewed coverage served only to further polarize discussions and exacerbate tensions between employees and taxpayers.
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