Monday, March 8, 2010

Goldwater Institute: Phoenix city budget still doesn't reflect changing times

Adapt and overcome. This is part of a Marine Corps mantra born of a resource scarcity the service suffered when its equipment consisted mostly of hand-me-downs from the Army. This is exactly the kind of can-do spirit that we need from government officials today.

phx skylineThe Arizona economy has lost more than 300,000 jobs. Tax revenues have plummeted at every level. We cannot afford to continue funding government at its former levels. Unfortunately, officials with the City of Phoenix have demonstrated an unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances.

Phoenix says it has eliminated 500 positions, but that's only about 3 percent of the city's 14,000 employees. Due to attrition, the actual number of layoffs will be less than 50, or around three-tenths of 1 percent. The City Council did eliminate an administrative assistant position that paid $95,000 a year. That's a start, but it begs the question of how many other high-dollar assistant positions have been preserved. And, it lends credence to the assertion that the average cost of a city employee is $100,000.

Residents of Phoenix were told that the city needed to impose a 2-cent food tax to protect police and fire services from budget reductions. But on a recent episode of Sunday Square Off, Mayor Phil Gordon said he was shifting police officers to other city departments whose budgets were partially funded through federal or state tax money.

So, really, the City Council has made it more expensive for people to put food on the table so that they can protect the city's $1 million budget for "arts and culture" and the $1 million budget for "government relations," i.e. lobbyists.

When Mayor Gordon delivers the "State of City" address next Tuesday, he will talk about all the changes going on at City Hall, all the hard choices he's made. But the truth is, the new tax on groceries and the refusal to realign government to focus on core functions show nothing has changed and the state of the city is disappointing.

Dr. Byron Schlomach is an economist and the director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at the Goldwater Institute.

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