by Lisa Shin
Recently, one of my patients told me, “They should have saved for the lean years” as we discussed the possible change in LANL management and GRT revenues. She was referring to the Biblical account of Joseph and his rise to power from slavery. Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat cows, devoured by seven starving cows. Then he dreamed of seven ripe, healthy sheaves of wheat, devoured by seven dead, dry ones. Joseph correctly predicted the meaning of the Pharaoh’s dreams.
“Immediately ahead are seven years of great abundance in all the land of Egypt. After them will come seven years of famine and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten. As the land is ravaged by famine, no trace of the abundance will be left in the land…And let Pharoah take steps to appoint overseers over the land, and organize by taking a fifth part of the land’s produce in the seven years of plenty….Let that food be a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will come upon the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish in the famine.”
The principle is simple: save during the plenteous years to be ready for the lean years.
My optometric practice and small business also benefited immensely from the GRT “windfall” over the past decade. However, I always knew that my financial situation could shift quickly, with a change in LANL management and contract. This motivated me to pay off all my debts and invest in revenue producing assets. I upgraded my equipment and purchased new office space, while maintaining net income without losses and deficits.
Former Councilor Morris Pongratz recently wrote “The ‘new’ money went into new buildings, road improvements and infrastructure upgrades. Now, having completed those capital projects, one might hope that the gross receipts tax rate might be lowered when the new contract takes effect.”
Indeed, with prudent and fiscally responsible use of our GRT “windfall,” most of our infrastructure projects should have been accomplished easily within budget, while incurring minimal debt. Yes, we should be able to lower the gross receipts tax rate with a new contract. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We have deficits where expenditures have consistently exceeded our revenues. Instead of paying off debt with the additional GRT revenues, we have incurred more debt, with $24.3 million paid in debt interest. The measure of fiscal responsibility would have been a $10 million budget surplus with a positive net fund balance, not a $10 million “reserve” and a negative net fund balance. How is this being “careful with people’s money”?
I respect our County Councilor and Candidate for District 43, Pete Sheehey for his dedication as a public servant, but I seriously question his “no tax increase” and “fiscally responsible” voting record. If this were true, then we would be less dependent on GRT revenue by now and the construction of a $6.5 million expanded kiddie pool would not be contingent on it. Our County Council’s lack of fiscal restraint will result in higher rates for local gross receipts taxes and property taxes. We will need to downsize County staff and services. Pete Sheehey’s attempts to tax a non-profit in order to keep GRT revenue will likely result in costly litigation that will end up in Supreme Court. This amounts to another waste of our tax dollars, to the tune of hundreds of millions.
I am tired of old school politicians who promise one thing to get elected, but do another while in office. Regardless of political party, we must demand accountability and integrity from our leadership. We need to elect those who adhere to the best practices and highest principles of ethics and stewardship when it comes to public resources and our tax dollars. Remember this when you vote in 2018!