Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Harsh Cuts or Higher Taxes?

According to The New York Times, this is the choice Westchester County (NY) faces. It's not a particularly important story (unless you happen to live in Westchester, in which case you can be sure that your taxes are going up). But it's emblematic of liberal journalism at its worst. Let's go to the text:

The Westchester County budget director, Kathleen M. Carrano, recently laid out some of the options for county officials trying to close a $102-million budget gap in the coming year.

Lay off 402 employees and cut 58 vacancies.

Eliminate 914 day care slots for low-income families.

Close seven parks and four pools.

Raise bus fares by $2 a ticket, and golf fees by $3 a round.

By the end of the exercise, those cutbacks and others accounted for only $65 million in county expenses — leaving another $37 million to go. "We've been through these times before," she said. "They're painful, and they're difficult, and we always come through. But it will be a very different government than before."

Actually, Westchester County government is a complete waste of time and money. It could be eliminated (with essential functions being turned over to the State or out-sourced to private companies) and no one would miss it. Local (town and village) governance could also be consolidated, to cut the administrative cost of police, fire and EMT service. Total savings to Westchester County residents would probably exceed, on an ongoing basis, $125-200 million a year. And that is a conservative estimate, with no cuts in education costs (which are ridiculously high). This more than covers the roughly $102 million shortfall that Ms. Carrano bemoans above.

The whole premise of the story is false.