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May 6, 2011

8

Well that didn’t take long

by Deena Winter

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler


I knew Mayor Chris Beutler’s re-election would guarantee a property tax increase this year, but I didn’t think he’d admit to it so soon after winning his second term.

But there it was, right between the lines on the front page of the LJS:

The mayor, already deep into budget analysis, said he expects to ask for a public discussion on some serious questions:

* Should the city make deep cuts in services or raise more revenue?

* Should the city have a limited roads maintenance and construction program or raise more revenue? This will include a discussion about using more bonds for roads building.

“Raise more revenue” — how does a city raise more revenue? Through fees and taxes. Fees have gone up every year Beutler’s been in office, so that’s a given. And this year I expect Beutler will finally propose a property tax increase. And any discussion about building more roads through bonds means a property tax increase, since that’s how bonds are paid off.

Beutler promised “serious cuts” — but in his first term he backed off pretty quickly at any whiff of public opposition to his cuts. Pool closures, library cuts, even “meter readers” — very rarely did he go through with major cuts. He often brags about cutting 120 city positions — but only a handful of those were pure layoffs.

He said “revenue increases” will be considered. Again, he’s avoiding the word “tax,” but that’s what a “revenue increase” is.

I expect he’ll try to lay a lot of blame on state lawmakers for cutting state aid, but that only accounts for $1.8 million of the problem. Even before that cut became known, the city was projecting a $6.3 million deficit — and that’s not even counting raises that will have to be given to most city employees. The city projects that gap will widen to $19 million in five years, if things don’t change. So we’re sitting in almost the exact same place we were before he was elected to his first term as mayor.

Beutler said in his interview that the city budget was structurally imbalanced even before the recession took hold and he took office. But Beutler ran for his first term on a promise to fix the budget, and didn’t do it.

Here’s what he said in 2007, while campaigning for mayor:

Citing his experience with state budgets as a 24-year lawmaker, he says it’s time to fix a “structural problem” with Lincoln’s budget: City expenditures are outpacing revenue, according to five-year projections. “The City Council and the mayor have let this go on for way too long,” he says, “so that today what you have going on is essentially a mess.” In the short-term, it’s going to take “real cuts” not “one-time” cuts the council and mayor have made recently. He promises not to raise property taxes to make ends meet.

Seems to me, little has changed since then. Here’s what he said this week:

Before he became mayor, city budgets were being plugged with “one-time funds or other manipulations,” he said. Beutler would like to “restore fiscal order” to the budget.

Deja vu, anyone?

Now before you start accusing me of beating up on Beutler too much, know this: I voted for the guy. So did 65 percent of voters on Tuesday. If that isn’t a mandate to make the tough decisions he promised to make four years ago, I don’t know what is.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jane H Kinsey
    May 6 2011

    I don’t see 65% a mandate since the Republicans didn’t even put up a viable candidate. People were warned about what Beutler would do.
    They get what they deserve. Wait until he wants to raise more revenue for the ARENA. When will the electorate get mad? How will Beutler have the gall to run for governor after that? Let’s hope not.

    Reply
  2. Roberta
    May 6 2011

    Oh, no let’s hope he does run. He will be out of our hair.

    Reply
  3. Publius
    May 6 2011

    Seriously, what else did you expect? As you pointed out in your article, he made these promises before and never followed through. This is what you get with a career politician. He will never have the fortitude(however you want to define that) to make the hard decision.

    Reply
  4. Roger Yant
    May 6 2011

    It must be what Lincoln wants, more taxes! They voted him in a second time.

    Reply
  5. ken
    May 7 2011

    Beutler and Hoppe couldn’t tell the truth if they had to. It’s sad when you can’t even bring yourself to exercise your right to vote because it’s such a joke! How did we get to this point?

    Reply
  6. porcupine
    May 7 2011

    Get ready folks here it comes.

    Reply
  7. Huskerfan
    May 7 2011

    Beutler never campaigned on lowering taxes. Chris has consistantly said he’ll cut spending (which he has demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate) and and protect taxpayers, but he will refuse to allow Lincoln to be overtaken by the same long term fiscal problems that Omaha now has by ignoring lingering budget gaps, raiding funds set aside for other purposes, and kicking the can down the street. Chris will do what is right, maybe not what is politically convenient for him. The voters trust Mayor Beutler, that’s why they voted for the arena project last year and that’s why they voted overwhelmingly this year to return him to office.

    Reply
  8. Roger C
    May 9 2011

    Sour grapes from Kinsey and Yant? Say it isn’t so! Those of you who hate to see your 14% take of the property tax to the city increase would be better off putting your energies towards electing people to the LPS board who would try to lower THEIR intake of taxes (but it’s for the children! :).

    Reply

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