City Council President
What is certain, though, is that the mayor made clear that she did not respect the right of the council to play a role in setting Baltimore's spending priorities. That left council members with a choice of cutting spending but not getting the new programs they wanted or allowing appropriations they didn't think were really necessary. They chose the latter. The attitude seems to be that the city should spend every penny it can get its hands on.
The Rawlings-Blake administration had not only said that she wouldn't make those appropriations but that she couldn't. Finance Director Andrew Kleine issued a memo this week saying that any funds freed up by the council's budget cutting would be considered "a property tax revenue surplus" that, under the city charter, cannot be used for supplemental appropriations.
That's true but somewhat misleading. After the council passes the budget, the mayor has the opportunity to sign or veto it. If the council had approved Mr. Young's cuts to the budget and Ms. Rawlings-Blake had signed it, indeed, the money could not have been used for additional youth services or anything else — other than providing a larger fiscal cushion for the city or allowing for a slight reduction in the property tax rate. If she had vetoed it, however, she would have had the opportunity to present a spending plan that reflected the council's priorities. Moreover, had she wanted to, she could have adjusted her proposal before it came to a final vote.
Ms. Rawlings-Blake should know how it works. In 2009, she led an effort to cut about $1 million from then-
When a mayor wants to respond to the City Council's funding priorities, she can find a way. Indeed, she did restore a small amount of funding this year to after school programs through the Family League and Experience Corps. It's not that Ms. Rawlings-Blake couldn't have accommodated the council's other desires. She just didn't want to.
Still, that should not have stopped the council from enacting cuts to her spending proposal. The city charter lays out a budget process in which the council is required every year to hold extensive hearings on the mayor's spending plan, and it does, spending hours going over the details with agency heads and others. After concluding that process, they decide, virtually without exception, that every single penny the mayor puts in the budget needs to be spent exactly as he or she proposed. It is simply inconceivable that an honest, thorough, independent evaluation of multibillion-dollar budgets would, for a decade at a time, not turn up a single item of wasteful or questionable spending.
But that is the implication of the council's habit of passing mayoral budgets intact. Is it any wonder that the city continually finds that its spending is growing faster than its revenues?