Mayor Frank Jackson proposed an income tax increase Monday — a proposal that Plain Dealer’s
emeritus scribe Brent Larkin signaled last month
— saying a boost from people who work in Cleveland is necessary to stave off service cuts and major layoffs.
Jackson hopes to get the issue on the ballot in November of this year or March of next.
The proposed hike would raise the current 2 percent tax to 2.5 percent and would, Jackson said, generate an additional $83.5 million for the city.
All that extra money is required, Jackson said, to pay for the costly Consent Decree and to sustain the city’s current level of service (which would be impossible otherwise, due to funding cuts from the state).
Jackson told cleveland.com reporters and editors in a private meeting that if voters do not approve the measure, city residents can expect a “devastating decline” in quality of life.
A devastating decline
“In short, more potholes, more blight,” cleveland.com wrote
, “unplowed snow and slower police response.”
Though the city income tax hasn’t been raised since 1981, and though some city councilpeople — Zack Reed, notably — say they’d support the increase if for no other reason than to get more police officers on the streets, Jackson’s language is surprisingly threatening:
"The choice people will have is, do you want a structurally balanced budget that increases capacity to deliver services, or do you want a budget that is balanced but reduces service and lays off people?" Jackson asked his receptive audience at cleveland.com.
It’s distressing that Jackson felt compelled to frame it as an either/or proposition, especially because it’s not like his administration has done everything in its power to maximize efficiency. (And that doesn’t just mean layoffs.)
The division of waste collection, for instance, was last month revealed to have consumed 274 percent more than it had budgeted for overtime because workers were chronically absent, even when they were clocked in. In February of 2015, the commissioner of the division of streets was demoted after a "fiasco"
when snow plows abandoned city protocol.
Shouldn’t it be incumbent upon Jackson, when he’s asking residents to pony up yet again, to prove that a tax increase is a last resort?