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Cut spending to help taxpayers

Every government is seeing sharp declines in revenues. Just like American families sitting around their kitchen tables trying to cut back their budgets, government must also control spending by becoming more efficient.

At a time when people are losing their jobs, businesses are shutting down and home values are plummeting, local government should do everything possible to avoid placing more hardships on residents.

Whether you call it a revenue enhancement, balancing budgets, or any other euphemism, a tax increase still amounts to more financial strain on the taxpayer. People do not have the ability to pay more for government services right now.

This is the bottom line: government needs to control spending to balance its own budget and cannot rely on increasing taxes.

Here are my suggestions on how to reduce spending:

First, while I understand that Gwinnett County employees are vital to running an effective local government, now is not the time for pay increases. County employees should receive the same pay increases as the majority of workers in Gwinnett County. Most people in this country are facing a reduced income, not receiving pay raises. A 5.25 percent salary increase this year over last year is the wrong decision and should be rescinded. People everywhere are losing their jobs and not getting raises.

Second, I would not add any new employees. The county should maintain efficiency by replacing existing firefighters or police who have left, but should not create new positions during this economic downturn.

Instead of keeping operations streamlined during this tough economic time, the County has decided to add 175 new police officers to patrol inside Gwinnett cities - and the cities didn't even ask for the police support. This appears to be a duplication of services and an inefficient use of taxpayer money.

Third, the "rainy day" fund is for rainy days. It's raining cats and dogs. This is not the time to increase rainy day funds, but to use them. While at the state level we are using rainy day funds now to prevent tax increases, it appears that the Gwinnett budget is substantially increasing its rainy day fund. A rainy day fund is a savings account. Is it better to have that money sitting in your bank account or the government's?

Finally, government should slow the building of new facilities that are going to drain the budget of operating expenses. One percent sales taxes are good for items like libraries, parks, fire stations and police stations, but once built, they are going to cost the county and the taxpayers even more to operate. Increasing expenses in an economic downturn is not a fiscally responsible way to spend the taxpayers' money.

By implementing all four of my recommendations, we will be on the road to balancing our budget without raising taxes.

Now is the time to reduce spending, not increase taxes.

Sen. Don Balfour serves as Chairman of the Rules Committee. He represents the 9th Senate District, which includes a portion of Gwinnett County. Call him at 404-656-0095 or e-mail him at don.balfour@senate.ga.gov.