Government Spending

What Politics Looks Like in a Union-Run World That Has Run Out of Money

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What to do with all these "structural deficits" popping up all over? Get used to it, kids, if you haven't already: Politicians will look for each and every "revenue opportunity" possible to soak their subjects rather than exact any concessions to the public sector unions that are gobbling up ever-larger shares of government budgets. The latest example comes from labor leader-turned Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa:

Quit staring at my wife, mayor!

Villaraigosa decried the hurdles involved in raising city taxes during a discussion about the sources of the city's huge deficit, which will grow to nearly $700 million in July.

In an interview with National Public Radio published over the weekend, the two-thirds vote it takes to increase sales taxes was a top peeve: "California cities are constrained by various propositions which limit your ability to raise revenues," Villaraigosa told NPR's Guy Raz.

"You can't raise taxes," Raz replied.

"Without a two-thirds vote of the people, and so that revenue opportunities just are a lot more difficult to try to take advantage of," Villaraigosa said.

Strangely, Los Angeles County has a sales tax that is among the highest in the state (8.75 percent) chiefly because Villaraigosa himself campaigned for a half-cent increase in sales tax in 2008. […]

We're losing

Some might even say Villaraigosa's recently approved proposal to begin increasing Department of Water and Power fees six percent is somewhat of a tax increase. […]

Meanwhile, in the same interview, Villaraigosa said he's out of options for patching up the deficit. Despite calls for thousands of layoffs, department closures and other budget-tightening measures, the mayor seems to have thrown up his hands.

"There aren't a lot of options here," he said. "We have contracts with our employees that we have to abide by. So unless they agree to sharing in the sacrifice in these tough times, I won't have a lot of options."

On a related note, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert last week decried the "ruinous fiscal meltdown occurring in state after state, all across the country," which he rightly noted is "a story that is not getting nearly enough attention." Unmentioned, as usual, was the ridiculous increases in spending and future promises states made during the comparative good times of 2002-2007. This is what public policy, and the discussion thereof, is going to look like for the foreseeable future.

Top link via Jill Stewart's Twitter feed.