what a fiscal conservative actually looks like

(Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, on his way to a press conference. Yes, he actually does this, and not just for the cameras. Photo by Hugger Industries, generously shared via CC license.)

Seattle has plenty of problems. But its bond rating isn't one of them:

Mayor Mike McGinn's budget director Beth Goldberg introduced several proposals for replenishing and strengthening the Revenue Stabilization Account, the city's "rainy day" fund, which now stands at $11.2 million, down from a high of $30 million in 2008. The proposals include dedicating 0.5 percent of all general revenue tax receipts to the fund, along with half of all end-of-year fund balances in excess of that forecast. The rainy day fund is capped by law at 5 percent of annual general revenue tax receipts, currently about $37.5 million, and the goal would be to rebuild the reserves toward that maximum amount...

...it turns out that fiscal prudence like this has served the city well, enabling it to preserve its AAA bond rating throughout the Great Recession, even as some other municipal governments teeter on the brink of insolvency...

So yeah, Mayor McGinn is a tree-hugging/bike-riding/tunnel-hating/closet-San-Franciscan, but when it comes to fiscal matters, it turns out he's rather, well, conservative compared to say, the debt-addled speculators running the foundering Seattle Times. Even McGinn's opposition to the deep bore tunnel—an obsession that some have used to label him a goofy liberal—is largely based on fiscal concerns: That it is too expensive, provides too little benefit for the cost, and poses an unacceptably high risk to tax payers.

I know this portrait of McGinn as a fiscally responsible budgeter runs counter to caricature, but it's hard to argue otherwise.

What works in Seattle may not work everywhere else. But it is an example worth comparing to say, certain would-be presidential candidates that want you to believe that they are "fiscal conservatives".


Gino said...

interesting... he may be the next GOP nominee.

i dont know how much power the gov of TX has over budgeting. i've heard its a weak governorship when compared to other states. this charge was made against Bush when he was running as a 'sucessful' governor for president of the USA.
so, yeah it goes both ways...

but TX has a political culture that transcends any one governor, and with their business climate its easy for anybody to run as a former sucessful gov of TX.

i dont know TX that well, cept that the Wife insists we move there (its her home state) eventually (I will NOT). but she's welcome to go without me. :)

what i DO know: is that several 20yr old h.s dropouts from CA who couldnt work their way out of living in their mom's garage are going there with nothing but the clothes on their back, and within months are able to find jobs and afford 2br apartments for their young families.

i wont credit any one governor,just like the failures of CA cant be laid at any one governor either (as much as i dislike the guy) but something in TX seems to be going right in comparison to CA.

as for seattle's mayor: los angeles sure could use him. but since he dont speak spanish, he's a woefully unqualified.

Brian said...

"...something in TX seems to be going right in comparison to CA."

The answer you are looking for there is "oil".

Gino said...

if they were working oil jobs, that may be right.

these are warehouse workers. the bottom rung of the legal labor force. CA wages couldnt buy groceries. now they have apartments. seems $10/hr goes a lot further there than $10 in CA.

Brian said...

The oil industry (or any other big industry) drives job growth in other sectors. People come to work in oil also by houses, groceries, etc, etc.
And the state derives considerable benefit from that...for a long time some of the sweetest academic gigs were to be found in TX. (The downside, naturally, being that you had to live in TX.)

My understanding is that housing costs are low there largely because of unrestricted land use, both in terms of having lots of space and virtually no zoning, both of which are very different than CA.