Island County needs to sharpen its pencil
June 8, 2010 · Updated 2:27 PM
Commissioner Helen Price Johnson’s “Sound Off” (News-Times, May 28) says the county budget is in a crisis, blames it on the recession and initiatives 695 and 747, and likens it to hitting a wall. This is specious and irresponsible: It’s specious because budgets are not forces of nature over which people have no control; they are tools people use to avoid spending more than they make. It’s irresponsible because the commissioners were elected to use that tool.
The initiatives were enacted to reinforce the responsibility to budget within means. A prudent driver who sees a wall ahead will apply the brakes, not demand that people gather in front of the wall to soften the crash.
The list of cuts is encouraging. I cut my household expenses at the start of the recession. Later, when I saw that it wasn’t enough, I sharpened my pencil and cut again. Sure, my lifestyle changed, but I survived. Now the commission wants me to support their (county) lifestyle in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed. I say, sharpen your pencils again.
The lists are incomplete. In addition to the cuts and tax increases, there should be a list of the costs of increasing taxes: How many businesses will be downsized or closed? How many families will leave the Island? How many more people will become unemployed? Taxes don’t create wealth; they erode it. Tax money isn’t “free”; people have to forego spending (or saving) on other things to compensate for what’s taken. It’s quite possible to raise taxes and to lose revenue.
Perhaps the commissioners could explore ways to divest the county of some services, reduce taxes, and thereby encourage community groups and private providers to supply the services (probably more efficiently). That could be a fourth list.