Newsday’s editorial board frequently meets with people in public life: school superintendents, state and local elected officials, law-enforcement agents. And one question that comes up all the time is how to reduce the cost of public services.
It was an issue back when the only urgency was New York’s position as No.1 or No.2 in the nation with the highest combined state and local tax burden – a “distinction” New York trades from year to year with New Jersey. Now, as the Great Recession has tightened the screws on public budgets everywhere, the question is more pointed: Which will it be, raise taxes or cut services?
Elected officials, candidates and community leaders usually don’t want to choose between these unpopular alternatives. Sometimes they try a dodge: “Cut waste, fraud and abuse!” Hard to argue with that. No one ever campaigns for more inefficiency, dishonesty and corruption.
The other dodge – or at least that’s how I thought of it until recently – was, “Cut unfunded mandates!” (more…)