On the Mark: We have paid for much greater efficiency

MARK STRAIN

State and federal budget cuts are finally becoming actual proposals instead of just more talk. A rash of solutions are being suggested to reduce revenues throughout various levels of government. In response, politicians are finally starting to think reduced spending instead of more taxes; at least some of them are.

In news blurbs last week concerning these discussions, politicians commented that the taxpayers simply “want more government than they are willing to pay for.” With statements like that, we must have some of the most disconnected elected officials of any country in the world.

The only people who want more government are those who sponge off the rest of us. What taxpayers really want and desperately need is more efficient spending of the extensive and more than necessary funds that are currently being extracted from us as taxes. The era of overfed politicians needs to come to an end. We need more bang from the bucks they already get, not more government and not more taxation.

Politicians jump to cut wages and benefits of employees, but where are the cuts in the massive perks and entitlement packages politicians receive that 99 percent of the working public in the private sector cannot even dream of? Despite their pensions, health insurance, salaries and daily pampering, some still think nothing of nickel and diming taxpayers. We have local politicians who demand reimbursements for $3 to attend some needless event, $4 for a breakfast and then waste hundreds of dollars to stay in a local hotel for a conference held right here in Collier County. Expand such examples to the state and federal levels and the waste is phenomenal.

At the same time we see local projects being approved that are far beyond what is needed. Our emergency operations center sets the standard for an overpriced and overdone facility that will be rarely used. It cost many times more than what other counties have spent and far exceeds our needs. We have an overpass at Airport-Pulling Road and Golden Gate Parkway that cost three times what it should have and a water park in North Naples that is so expensive to use and operate that the facility is closed much of the year and even when it is open the cost of admittance is so high it is prohibitive for a typical working family.

As responsible people we have been encouraged to save for that inevitable rainy day. Many of us did. At the same time, by not overspending when times are good allowed some of us to continue paying our bills when money became tight.

Government must operate in much the same way. Over extending government spending by relying on temporary sources of revenues, like impact fees, only exasperates the problem when the bad times hit. We are now reaping the outcome of utilizing bonds to finance infrastructure far into the future while relying on a continued stream of impact fees to pay the bonds back. When such temporary revenue dries up what remains are more permanent sources of revenue and that means primarily property taxes. When our property taxes have to be used to pay back bonds, unless more taxes are raised to compensate, other services have to be cut so bond debt can be covered.

When we demand that certain services continue to be provided it does not mean we expect government services without paying for them; we simply want what we have already paid for. If we need to reduce spending in order to pay off bonds, then cuts may indeed be necessary but the cuts must be across the board, not applied with a pinpoint focus on projects politicians know will be sensitive to the public. Such actions by politicians are an obvious and cheap attempt at manipulating the public. Just one more reason we need change.

We don’t want or need more government; what we need are less politicians growing old and doing less while at the public trough. Elected officials need to be competent enough to challenge bureaucrats and honest enough to not use their influence for personal gain. When a politician remains in office simply because they cannot earn an equivalent wage and benefits in the private sector, our system is broken and the efficiency we deserve, and have paid for, is not there.

More government is no substitute for better government.

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