While budget infernos sweep state and local budgets, government bureaucrats fiddle away at deficits by making minor cuts and taking the easy road of tax increases. I’ve used the microcosm of the local Palm Beach County budget activity to make this point before, as it probably reflects what is going on in some municipal and state finances throughout the United States. PBC’s “recommended” 13.4% increase in property tax rate is designed to “make up” lost revenue” from falling property values. A future stream of required higher tax payments just devalues property further, begetting yet more future increases.
On the other side of the ledger, the “tough” spending cuts include cremating indigents when they die, rather than burying them, “saving” $100,000 (this, mind you, in a budget of some four billion dollars). Other cuts, of course, are aimed at the people who need help the most. Meanwhile, more than $1 billion is earmarked for “general government, interfund transfers, other, and internal services.” Make systemic changes to the way the County operates? Not a chance.