Every tax is a pay cut. Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation
|State aid cuts; Bring 'em on!||January 20, 2003|
|Rob Meltzer||Metrowest Daily News|
It now appears that Governor Romney is going to balance the budget
by slashing local aid to cities and towns, and I say, bring on the
It cannot be disputed that for the past 10 years Massachusetts municipalities have been acting like Ronald Reagan's apocryphal welfare queen, the woman who supposedly drove her Cadillac to the local liquor store to buy cigarettes with her food stamps.
Take Framingham by way of example. This town is bloated with middle managers at both the town and school department level. This town has gone through two overrides to pay for luxury items, like the new pleasure palace high school. The school department has recently paid a consultant $25,000 to put a want ad in the papers for a new superintendent. The school choice program has become nothing more than an expensive transportation system, as kids are shipped from one end of town to the other to attend identical schools. You can, and I have in the past, filled an entire column of a newspaper with examples of government waste.
Meanwhile, archaic notions of development that limit apartment construction and restrict mixed-used development downtown has curtailed economic growth, while giving us a snazzy new town common that resembles a cemetery.
At the same time, ad hoc citizens groups have proliferated on the north side of town, intent on killing superb development projects that would have and could have brought the kind of commercial and economic growth to the town that would have sustained us through the tough times. In what is the ultimate act of lunacy, many of the folks who pushed through the overrides, and who have killed or tried to kill planned development in Framingham, are now running for public office boasting of their achievements. They should be driven out of town on a rail.
There are areas where this town can clearly cut costs. Elementary school parents who choose schools outside of their neighborhoods should not be given free transportation, except in the event of need. Middle school and high school busing should similarly be scaled back or eliminated. Superfluous schools, like Stapleton, should be closed. Trash and yard waste pick-up should be changed to a "pay as you throw" system, requiring residents to buy special disposal bags. Union contracts should be renegotiated to eliminate excessive benefits and overtime. Merit pay for management should be based on merit. Police details for construction should be replaced by flag holders, as is the case in so many other places. Land not in use for town purposes ought to be sold, as should the town's interest in the local hospital.
Framingham should similarly refuse to perform unfunded state and federal mandates. If, for example, the state is not going to pay for the MCAS, it has no place dictating the policy of how the town of Framingham awards its diplomas. Let's not forget that this nation was based on the notion of opposing centralized tyranny.
And Framingham can also make those who harm the town take responsibility for their actions. The ad hoc advocacy groups such as NIMBY, Save Our Town and the Sucker Pond Neighborhood Association should be compelled to incorporate, to register as lobbyists, to disclose their funding sources and spending activity, and to acquire bonds to cover any harm to any party caused by challenges to development that are later determined to be based on prejudice, bigotry or other improper motives, including the intentional effort to deprive property owners of the full value of their private property.
Framingham and towns like Framingham don't have revenue problems. They have spending problems. As was pointed out by opponents to both of the Framingham 2 1/2 overrides at the time of those overrides, failure to curb costs while increasing spending was a formula for fiscal disaster.
The Commonwealth has now done what it ought to do and what override opponents couldn't convince the majority they had to do -- force municipalities to take responsibility for their own conduct without expecting a never ending stream of welfare checks. And, contrary to what town leaders say, we can do it without affecting the most core services required by our citizens. The Commonwealth is forcing municipalities to clean house and to assess what the towns really need to do.
Cuts in local aid? Bring 'em on.
Rob Meltzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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