Friday, April 04, 2008

Save Rainy Day Dollars for Core Functions

The Objective Conservative noted with regret that the Nebraska Legislature seems intent on dipping into what is considered an emergency or "rainy day" fund to throw some money at the arts.

Tuesday a commissioner brought before the Douglas County Board a motion to urge the Legislature to move $5 million from the cash reserve fund to the Nebraska Cultural Preservation Endowment to match a $5 million gift from an Omaha philanthropist. The donor had offered a $15 million match, but the Legislature decided that was too much.

I know the donor and the state senator who sponsored the proposal. I believe their motivations are good. But I disagree with the proposal. On the county board, I abstained on the motion (it passed) because "abstain" has less sting than "no."

I have worked in nonprofit fundraising (the donor has been a generous supporter of the Jesuit Middle School of Omaha, where I used to work). I understand the desire to double the money.

If it had been something related directly to a core function of government, I might have said yes. But even for a core function such as health care, and even when it's a 60-40 federal match (you spend $4 million and the federal government will match with $6 million), you still have to come up with that additional $4 million.

It's true that there is roughly half a billion dollars in the cash reserve fund, so we're talking about tapping 1% of it. But you define your priorities and show your ideology by what you do with money and how you handle a budget.

A budget is a policy document, not just a bunch of numbers. The lure of outside dollars should not tempt policy makers to spend tax dollars from an emergency fund on a peripheral item when the state faces a fiscal crisis that could get worse if economic recession sets in.

1 comment:

OmaSteak said...

So let's actively by voting "Yes" or passively by voting "Abstain", to tax all productive citizens to support the desires of the "wine and cheese" arts crowd in ventures and venues that can't support themselves. This must make sense in some alternative universe and that must be the universe where elected officials live. Here in the real world, ventures that can't support themselves financially don't survive. If Mr. Holland wants to spend his own money on the "arts" that's strictly his business and right. Where he crosses the line is asking for tax money that gathered by the state by force or threat of force. Abstaining from a vote on the subject shows a lack of the courage of your supposed convictions in representing the best interests of your tax paying constituents.