04/20/10 — Danger, danger: Higher taxes warnings suggest it might be time to set priorities

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Danger, danger: Higher taxes warnings suggest it might be time to set priorities

Let's face it. By the time a politician or public employee of any kind talks about a tax increase or the need for drastic budget cuts as if either is imminent, he or she has known one has been coming for a long time.

And that is likely the case for the state budget concerns expressed by Gov. Bev Perdue today and the possibility of a revenue downturn as mentioned at Monday's meeting of Goldsboro City Council.

And yes, budget shortfalls mean hard choices. There is only a limited pool of money -- and when there simply isn't any more, then you have to decide which bills are necessities and which are do-withouts.

And this year, we might be pretty close to the end of being able to cut anymore do-withouts -- especially at the state level.

So that leaves a choice -- and a need for an immediate examination of what North Carolina residents in general and Goldsboro and Wayne County taxpayers in specific want to see funded in 2010-11.

Some of the answers will be clear cut at the state level -- education is likely to still be a priority here, as well as job creation.

At the city level, there might be a few more limits -- like not starting any new project with any new revenue demands.

And lest you think you have heard the last of the budget concerns, just wait. Much of the county's budget also is affected by state funding. So who knows what effect the state's continued concerns is going to have on what money Wayne County needs to operate this year.

As we start to get into budget talks, we have to keep in mind that the officials at all levels will not be the only ones who will have to make sacrifices. If there is no money for them, services will have to be cut. And once the fat is trimmed off any budget, the only thing left to cut is meat -- and that means some tough choices have to be made, not the least of which is whether we are going to be willing to pay the extra bills to keep services intact.

The budget debate has only just begun -- and this year it is one that will demand the public's attention.

How it ends up will have everything to do with what county, city and state residents are willing to pay -- and what they can afford.

Published in Editorials on April 20, 2010 10:34 AM