Budget Proposals by ‘Numbers’ and ‘Words’


Beginning last Tuesday, my colleagues and I met for two full days to discuss the budget proposal currently before the Council. At these discussions, each committee chair is asked to summarize his or her proposals and then respond to questions from other councilmembers. The first day, we primarily discussed the Budget Request Act component of the budget — the “numbers” I described in my last article, such as the funding levels we are recommending for various government agencies and grants. On the second day, we discussed each committee’s Budget Support Act recommendations — the “words” that give the government the legislative authority necessary to make the numerical portion work, such as my new initiative to dedicate a portion of our existing sales tax revenue to the arts.

For the last several years, these discussions have been held in full view of video cameras for the benefit of the public. The result is a great deal more grandstanding during these discussions and less candid dialogue. The next step is a Council vote on the full proposal. Only 24 hours’ advance circulation of the report is required prior to our initial vote, and by tradition, budget reports have actually been transmitted as late as 2 a.m. for a 10 a.m. vote — not necessarily a best practice.

I am hopeful we will stick pretty close to the mayor’s initial proposal, which does a good job striking the tough balance between long- and short-term objectives, and fostering the development of our business community (and resulting tax revenue) while providing support for those in need. When all is said and done, I will be proud to vote for a budget that restores Sunday hours in our neighborhood libraries, invests $86 million in affordable housing and repeals the municipal bond tax that has created such a burden for our seniors (without raising any meaningful revenue!). Looking forward, I hope to soon be able to let you know of the mayor’s fulfillment of a commitment to me to appropriate an additional $5 million for arts funding in our city, and a further $7 million off our budget “wish list,” if incoming revenues continue to outpace projections.

Thank you, as always, for your support, and please continue to send me your ideas.


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