Fellow blogger Pat Andrews is about the only person in Indianapolis who is on top of the city budget. You certainly can't be impressed by the deliberations that have taken place at budget hearings to date which have been aired on WCTY. Forget the "honestly balanced budgets" meme. What is clear is that there is a structural imbalance between revenues and expenditures that can only be corrected by massive budget cuts or a tax increase. Because I'm convinced that neither Mayor Greg Ballard nor Melina Kennedy will opt for massive budget cuts if either is elected to lead the city the next four years, that means a significant tax increase is just around the corner.
Andrews' analysis of the 2012 budget currently being debated by the City-County Council finds a shortfall of $64 million between proposed expenditures and anticipated revenues. Only through a series of budget gimmicks, which Andrews does a good job explaining here, is the proposed budget made to appear balanced. The situation after 2012 will rapidly deteriorate unless the economy dramatically turns around. Abdul Hakim Shabazz, an unabashed cheerleader for Ballard's re-election, has made much of the fact that hardly anyone is showing up at the budget hearings to offer public testimony as evidence of how well the city's finances are being managed under the current administration. The truth is that none of our current elected officials are willing to discuss this problem candidly and openly prior to the November election. To hear them talk, you would have no idea the city is facing a severe financial strain next year that is probably worse than that faced four years ago, the last time the city enacted a major tax increase. You can bet that come January, regardless of who is in charge of the city, there will be plenty of frank talk about what has to be done from the folks who will feel safe knowing that they won't have to face voters for another four years.