Monday, May 31, 2004

AC Wharton Plays the County Commission

So, last week County Mayor AC Wharton unveiled his "doomsday budget" to the County Commission. It purports to use draconian cuts in the Sheriff's office, the Health Department and other areas to balance revenues without a property tax increase. Everyone is shocked, shocked! It's a horrible, unthinkable option.

It's hogwash.

Wharton proposed a budget with a 23 cent property tax increase that otherwise held the line. Seventeen cents of that increase went solely to retiring County debt. He's got $1.6 billion in debt to pay and not enough money coming in to meet the payments. Commission head Cleo Kirk shot that budget down on final approach. Reason? None of the County Commissioners want back-to-back tax increases on their heads when they go to face the voters.

So, in retaliation Wharton thumps them with this budget, his variant of the same "Armageddon" budget that State House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and former Governor Don Sundquist tried to frighten voters with. Just as Naifeh & Sundquist knew their budget stood no chance of passage, Wharton knows no sane Commissioner will vote for his.

It's a tactic to bully the Commission into accepting his first budget. That's all. He's just stirring folks up to get the Commissioners to yield.

Watching television and newspapers taking this seriously is hilarious. They really should know better! It's all a ploy, a show, a low-stakes gamble.

Remember, AC Wharton is a lawyer by training and profession. This kind of brinksmanship is what they do. Someone will blink and the previous budget, or something remarkably like it, will magically appear and pass with much talk from everyone -- Commissioners, Mayor, newspapers, etc. -- that is was the right thing to do, that they avoided the horrible, horrible possibility of Armageddon.

No comments: