— The Washington disconnect to the “real people” living in the small cities and towns is nothing new, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot as the sequester debate coincided with Town Meeting/state budget debates. As attempts to solve the sequester problem have been ineffective at best, there has been a lot of hand-wringing in the media and political pundit world about why Washington can’t just make reasonable cuts to the budget and solve this thing. A look at the state’s budget debates might provide some answer to that.
After a few years of shrinking home prices and state revenues, people are frankly sick of having their taxes go up while getting less for what they pay. At Thursday’s state budget hearing, the call was not to cut spending but to increase it for a long list of programs that have suffered as the state has attempted to keep spending down. Merrimack Valley School District defeated a proposal to cut almost $1 million from the budget, and in Rindge, voters rejected $100,000 in across-the-board cuts. Of course, I could list just as many links to stories about towns that approved cuts, but I mention these above as evidence that the voters’ desire for lower taxes isn’t always a simple matter. Sometimes people can find the value — albeit painful — in the taxes they spend.
— How much is a full-time mayor worth? Manchester Charter Commission has decided it’s quite a bit more than Mayor Ted Gatsas’ $68,000 a year salary. While giving politicians pay raises ranks fairly low on the priority list for most voters, especially after the cutting Manchester has done to its schools and city staff, there is an argument to be made here. All city department heads make over $85,000 a year. There are also quite a few senior city workers, police officers and fire fighters that make more than this and quite a few city retirees that make more than $68,000 a year on their pension. Mayor Ted Gatsas certainly won’t be deterred by the pay, so might I suggest the pay raise instead go to his hard-working staff?
— Connecticut River Valley train is now moving faster. The same cannot be said for attempt to get a Merrimack River Valley commuter train.