Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Where Is All the Money Going?

If the recent article: "State Raids Funds For Deaf," didn’t catch your eye as a fiscal conservative, then nothing will. A closer look at the last 7 years of state budgets will show you a pattern: a growing structural deficit and spending of not only general reserve funds but also department reserve funds. Before I took office in Brookings as a city council member back in 2001, I analyzed the previous 12 budgets. It is an interesting exercise, much like the spending you do in your own home, you can figure out the priorities and fiscal philosophy. What I noticed was our city spent the money at the same rate of pace as our sales tax revenue generated.

Upon taking office, the City of Brookings was faced with not only a recession and stagnant sales tax revenue, but also a major drop in revenue from our utilities transfer. We were faced with a decision: do you spend reserves or do you make the cuts you need to truly balance the budget. Fortunately we made the right decision and we cut our budget by nearly 10%. And then we did something huge – we set into policy to only grow government at the rate of the consumer price index. The result - budget surpluses and an enviable financial position of strength for our community.

It comes down to this for our state: we must make the decision to reign in our spending and regain a strong financial position, especially in light of the federal funding declines. And we must be willing to be innovative and creative in our approach.

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