Demand cuts, be prepared to bleed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 28, 2015

Once upon a time, I had a job in education. I began the work in August, about six weeks before the fiscal year ended.

My first task?

“Spend all of your money.”

The goal – which was the polar opposite of any goal I had had in the private sector – was to end the fiscal year with nothing left over.

“If we don’t spend it, we won’t get it again next year,” was the way it was explained to me. I’m still not over it.

But I’ve thought of it again and again, especially this week.

“No new taxes!!”

“Cut government spending!”

Those are the rallying cries of the right, loudly proclaimed.

Congress, in refusing to make a budget deal some time back, did just that, putting into law a little deal known as sequestration. There were guffaws of satisfaction when it happened.

This week? Not so much. Because this week, it became abundantly clear that sequestration – that little process of cutting government spending – could impact us, specifically through military cuts at Fort Rucker.

More than 1,600 people showed up in a “listening session” in Ozark earlier this week, loudly protesting the cuts and saying that they would devastate the Wiregrass. Some of those were the same people calling for cuts in spending to balance the budget.

Choose any government program, cut it, and somebody, somewhere, is affected. Cut government jobs, and someone goes without a paycheck.

The same thing happened at the state level this week. Gov. Robert Bentley, who avoided new taxes in his first term, has been saying for weeks that the Alabama must look at new taxes to balance its budgets. Unlike the federal government, the state must pass balanced budgets.

The cuts have already come, Dr. Bentley said.

“We have spent the last four years making government operate more efficiently and effectively, saving taxpayers over $1.2 billion annually.”

Even before he announced the details of his proposals yesterday – which range from upping the tax on cigarettes by 85 cents per pack to doing away with tax exemptions – he was being criticized for daring to propose new taxes. And him a Republican. The very idea.

The governor let it be known he could make further cuts if legislators didn’t go along with his ideas. He was then villainized for playing a game at which his predecessors – and rivals – excelled.

Sen. Bill Holtzclaw responded by purchasing space on an electronic billboard. “Gov. Bentley wants to raise your taxes. I will not let that happen. Semper Fi. Sen. Holtzclaw.”

So Gov. Bentley kept his word. He made some more cuts – specifically to a road project in Holtzclaw’s district – although the transportation director took responsibility.

“If Sen. Holtzclaw is that concerned with taxes I think he probably would be uncomfortable with us spending tax money in his district, so I pulled the projects,” he said Thursday.

Even if you disagree with the taxes, you have to admit it was a good comeback.

Is this to say I don’t think there are not efficiencies to be had in government? Obviously not. My own experience belies that notion.

But I think when we demand cuts as opposed to taxes, we should realize that cuts generally cause bleeding.

And they hurt.