Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NIMB (Not In My Budget) Is the New NIMBY

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 4:00 PM

This, I think, is a brand new acronym: NIMB: Not In My Budget. It's when politicians admit, yes, we may need to spend money to fund necessary government services, but it's not coming from our coffers. "Not In My Budget. You'll have to find the money somewhere else." It explains so much about what's going on in Phoenix these days.

The original acronym, of course, is NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. It's when people agree that, sure, we may need a homeless women's shelter or a nursing home or a landfill or a chemical plant, just not anywhere near where I live. Put it in someone else's neighborhood, not mine.

I remember a moment in the presidential race between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter back in 1980. Reagan had just finished a stump speech and was taking questions from the press. A journalist asked Reagan, who was campaigning on lower taxes and smaller government, about his plan to lump federal funding to states into block grants which he said would give states the freedom to spend the money as they saw fit rather than having to comply with all kinds of federal rules and regulations. The journalist pointed out that the block grants Reagan proposed were smaller than the total funding they replaced. With a "Gotcha!" glint in his eye, the journalist asked how Reagan expected the states to fund the existing programs with less money.

Reagan answered simply, "They can raise taxes."

I was dumbfounded, amazed, awe struck. It was so simple. Reagan planned to make government smaller and lower taxes at the federal level, which is where he planned to live when he was elected. If that meant more money was needed at the state or local levels, well, that's their problem, not his. Let them raise taxes. It was classic NIMB. Not In My Budget.

Today's Star has a story about a judicial ruling that the state of Arizona illegally shifted $7.4 million [according to Pima County, the figure should be $15.8 million. I regret the error.] worth of funding obligations to Pima County. The state has to pick up the cost, according to the judge. In 1980 voters passed a measure which said, if property taxes are higher than one percent of the property's value, the state has to make up the difference. Last year, the legislative majority decided it didn't want to follow the voter mandate. "NIMB!" they shouted. "Not In My Budget!" So they passed SB 1476 which said the state is only responsible for a million dollars per county. That shifted $7.4 million $15.8 million from the state to Pima County. Voila! The state cuts its budget and someone else picks up the tab.

Since 2009, Arizona counties and cities have been scrambling to find money to cover costs dumped on them when the draconian cuts to the state budget began. Some needs have gone unmet. Others have been covered by raising local taxes and passing bond measures. Meanwhile, the state balanced its budget, with enough left over to lower taxes for the governor's wealthy friends, but the budget was balanced on the backs of our children whose education funding was cut and not replaced, and on the backs of city and county governments which have to figure out how to make up for funding the state withheld.

The most recent NIMB maneuver is Prop 123. When the courts demanded that the state increase its education budget, the Republicans crossed their arms across their chests and said, "Not In My Budget!" They found money outside of the budget, in the state land trust, to pay part of their legal obligation. Don't hold your breath waiting for them to dig into their own budgetary funds to cover the rest of what they owe, let alone increase our bottom-of-the-barrel per student spending. It's not in their NIMB-ish natures.

Science hasn't found a definitive answer to the question: Are NIMB-ish politicians that way due to nature, nurture or a combination of the two? No matter the answer, the urge to cut budgets and pass the problems onto others appears to be hard-wired, and it's difficult if not impossible to correct. The only sure way to deal with NIMB politicians is, VOTE them out.

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