All a matter of perspective
February 19, 2009 · Updated 12:52 PM
One of the unexpected consequences of our current economic difficulties is the object lessons we are receiving. One of the most direct lessons is the matter of perspective on the meaning of a dollar.
Starting last summer, when political hay could be harvested from a “failing” economic outlook, politicians and the media painted an ultimate tale of doom and gloom. The bursting housing bubble became the centerpiece for a complete economic collapse. The direct effect was an immediate reduction in personal spending. The most visible signs of restrained retail activity were the closing of a number of marginal businesses. Closer to home for the politicians was the immediate reduction of tax revenues and “budget” difficulties. Most recently, the county has experienced a “shortfall” of about $600,000 in sales tax revenue with more to come.
While the tax revenues might hamper the county (and other jurisdictions) in continuing to pay for non-essential programs and related personnel, the impact to some is much greater. That lost tax revenue equates to about $7 million in lost retail sales, lost jobs and closed businesses. Not a word to be heard from the county about reducing restrictive regulation on business, or reducing the tax burden to help businesses stay afloat. It appears the primary purpose of business, from the commissioners’ perspective, is to fund government. Perspective is everything in the case of sales tax.
There also appears to be a question of perspective in pay raises. The union representing the county Public Works employees is a bit upset the workers were asked to forgo a pay raise while the elected officials voted themselves one. In explaining how that worked, North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer noted the commissioners only took half the raise they were entitled to. However, it’s all OK because he donated his raise to charity. He also explained that while the sheriff now made more than commissioners (apparently a bad thing) the imbalance would be corrected in a few years. I wonder if the sheriff should look forward to a future pay reduction?
The last question has to do with the value of “about” $3,000. That’s what it cost us for the commissioners to gather in Quilcene, in a private home, for a retreat so they could get to know each other better and plan how to work together. Why didn’t an office in our expensive new Administration Building suffice? Why was it necessary to go out of county and use a private residence? Aren’t meetings of this sort subject to the public meetings act? I thought the budget was “tight”? I guess it’s just a matter of perspective.