Calamity: Government officials are putting off some purchases!

We're in the midst of an economic downturn. People are losing jobs and homes. The credit market is tight. And there is a great deal of uncertainty (malaise, even).

Naturally, it's time for the area's newspaper of record to focus on how bad your government has it:

They’re not feeling the economic storm quite yet, but local governments across the Houston region are hunkering down anyway. Some have frozen hiring, others have stopped filling potholes. Planned purchases of police cars, golf course mowers, Tasers and sewage equipment have been halted.

The caution infecting budget offices is universal, whether down south, where Galveston County is anticipating shrinking its budget by $5 million, or up north, where Montgomery County continues to rake in the tax dollars from growth. All are playing it safe, waiting for property reassessments and 2009 sales tax figures to come in before making any major decisions.

“We need to be watching every dollar that we spend,” said Cheryl Hunter, Texas City’s director of finance. The recession may have come to Southeast Texas late, but it has come. Public finance officers fear a future double-punch: lower tax revenues from a slower economy, combined with Hurricane Ike’s destructive effect on tax rolls in coastal towns, counties, and school districts. After years of growth and decreasing tax rates, budget officers now just want to hold on.

If there's one thing I know as a political scientist, it's that government in America does not get smaller. Sure, some purchases may be postponed for a while. If the recession is sharp, some services may suffer in the short term. But beyond the short term -- government in America does not get smaller. So we aren't shedding too many tears just yet for the woes of the government officials quoted in this story.

A journalist friend of mine actually had a slightly different take on the story: "Real readers don’t care about this sort of thing – this is a story written chiefly for the reporter’s sources ABOUT the reporter’s sources." It's hard to disagree, although I think some editors may care much more about these sorts of stories than reporters (hence their recurring nature).

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 02/17/09 08:23 PM | Print |

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