News from Patrick Flynn

Veto echo

By now readers are likely aware that the acting Mayor vetoed the Assembly’s version of the School District budget, thereby restoring the School Board‘s version and reversing a $3.8 million cut.  (If you missed it here are links to the KTUU and ADN stories.)  The move wasn’t exactly a surprise, given that I mused about it last week, but I’m more curious about the downstream effects.

Whether you agreed with the cut and opposed the veto, or disagreed with the cut and favored the veto, it’s interesting to contemplate how the veto will affect the upcoming election as well as efforts to bridge the city’s current budget deficit.  As to the former, I don’t think it alters Mr. Claman‘s prospects in the mayoral race.  For every pro-education vote he may have gained he likely lost a fiscal discipline vote, call it a wash.  In my mind the more likely scenario is a loss of support for the school bonds.  Here’s why.

Think of the electorate as roughly split between a segment that always votes for school bonds (say 45%), another segment that always votes against school bonds (presume another 45%) and the remaining 10% that vacillates between support or opposition based on circumstances.  Perhaps those in the middle vote “yes” if a school in their neighborhood is part of the package or “no” if bond proposals seem too large.  Those in the blogosphere who criticize all things ASD, and especially all things budgetary related to the ASD, were never going vote for the bonds no matter how big a cut we made in the operating budget but, much as poking a bee hive provokes a vigorous reaction, the veto will stir them into a frenzy.  But don’t take my word for it, here’s a comment from an ADN reader:

I think we all knew this was going to happen. To have cut $3.8 million out of a $759 million budget was pure tokenism, and when the super was crying “cuts” well, it was only expected. I’m to the point where I’m going to vote no on each and every bond. I can’t have my mortgage go up every year, and now, my insurance company has notified me that my premium next year may go up if rolling fire station closures become a normal thing. Before my next child enters high school in two years, I’m going to look real hard at moving to Wasilla.

There are plenty other comments like that, and I suspect the volume of that discussion will sway some of the voters in that small middle segment.  The question is how many and if that’s enough to defeat the bonds.

Even more interesting is the effect on our continuing efforts to balance the city’s budget by reducing spending.  Mind you, the Assembly‘s cut to the School District budget was not aimed at deficit reduction, simply to reduce property tax bills, but the veto will have consequences.  Below are two comments, the first by an ADN reader, the second by a member of an MOA union from which the acting mayor recently asked for wage concessions:

Every other municipal division is expected to make cuts, yet somehow ASD is exempt?  They need to do their share as well, maybe Carol can agree to a pay cut like the fire fighters did.

Discussion of concessions are more difficult with the veto.

And therein lies the crux of the matter.  Fairly or not, I would not be surprised if some MOA unions balk at making wage concessions if they don’t feel others are contributing.  In the days leading up to last week’s meeting Chris Birch recalled his days on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.  They were also making cuts to their local budget and eventually cut the school district budget, after which Chris says he received thank you calls from some municipal employees who appreciated some sharing of the pain.

I certainly support our school district and believe the men and women there do a good job of educating Anchorage’s children.  I hope this veto won’t cause more long-term harm than short-term benefit, and only time will tell.



This contribution was made on Wednesday, 01. April 2009 at 00:15 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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