Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fiscal restraint needed on Hennepin County board

The MPR story, "Hennepin County commissioners give themselves a pay raise," reveals the apparent hubris gone wild on the Hennepin County board. What else could explain how the commission could vote this way given the current economic situation?
St. Paul, Minn. — Hennepin County commissioners voted 5 to 2 yesterday to give themselves a 3.4 percent pay increase in each of the next two years.

Their salaries will top $100,000 in 2010.

The increases match the maximum raises offered to regular county employees for 2008 and 2009, and property taxes are expected to decrease slightly for many Hennepin County homeowners next year.

But the county is also facing a significant budget shortfall, and may have to make hundreds of layoffs in 2009.

Outgoing commissioner Penny Steele, of Rogers, abstained from the vote. She said she didn't want to vote for a pay increase she would not have to answer to voters for. Steele also said it was a bad time for a raise for elected officials.

"You know, obviously, with the kind of pressures on the people that live in Hennepin County, in terms of job losses in terms of their own property taxes still perhaps going up or not being reduced, and yet the valuations are not where they were a few years ago. I mean, there's a lot of pressure on the people that live in this county," Steele said.

Commissioner Linda Koblick, of Wayzata, voted against the pay raise.

Both Steele and Koblick are retiring from the board. They both heroically opposed the confiscatory taxpayer subsidies granted to the Minnesota Twins professional baseball team and its owner, Carl Pohlad, that enabled the new Twins stadium to be built in a brazen example of public debt financing private profit.

In November, the property taxpayers of Hennepin County desperately need to elect two commissioners that will carry on Steele and Koblick's record of service to the taxpayers. Jeff Johnson is running to succeed Penny Steele in District 7, while John Cooney is running to succeed Linda Koblick in District 6. Both candidates are Republican endorsed, and Johnson is running as a self-proclaimed "taxpayer watchdog."

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