Mayors lose federal cookie jar
Image via WikipediaWashington Times Editorial:
When Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, takes the gavel from outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi next week, the California Democrat won't be the new year's biggest loser. That dubious honor falls on America's big-spending big-city mayors. The Republican resurgence sends a message that municipal partying at taxpayer expense must come to an end. Finally, after an era of indiscipline, 2011 promises to be a year of reckoning.I suspect that California has more such abuses yet to come to light. I think the same thing could happen in other states that have overspent and over borrowed. That party appears to be over and it seems clear the Republicans will be cutting off many of these expenditures. Those cuts will probably surface more problems.
President Obama and Mrs. Pelosi have provided a backstop for city-hall spending sprees during the Great Recession. So-called "stimulus" spending injected nearly a trillion dollars into "wish list" projects that local governments didn't deem worthy of spending their own money to complete. In August, Congress upped the largesse by approving a $10 billion bailout for local teachers unions. A new House majority that has made fiscal responsibility a priority is unlikely to allow this out-of-control state of affairs to continue.
A staggering 9 percent of Americans work for counties, cities, towns and school districts. The union contracts in many of these jurisdictions yield bloated salaries and unsustainable pension obligations that reach truly absurd levels. In October, California's attorney general opened an investigation into two of the most egregious examples of public employees living it up on the taxpayers' dime. In Vernon, an industrial city of fewer than 100 residents outside Los Angeles, the city manager pocketed $785,000 last year. That was a bargain compared to his predecessor's $1.65 million paycheck. The manager for the city of Bell, Calif., was paid $787,637 and the police chief $457,000.