County fiscal crisis is an opportunity

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By Robert Gibson

“Never waste a good crisis” goes the saying. Sadly, it often takes a crisis to force overdue actions. The county budget shortfall is such an opportunity.

The county government’s fiscal challenge is real. The revenue bubble it has enjoyed the six years since LANL started paying gross receipts taxes is deflating. Neither the lab’s mission nor its political support in Washington are as strong as they were for decades. The lab is not going away, but its size and strength are declining.

Our failure to focus on diversifying our economic base means we are not replacing the meaningful jobs being lost at the lab or the income they produce — to the community and the county government.

So far, the county government’s reaction to the “sudden” (actually, long-foreseeable and avoidable) crisis has been predictable. Council, trying to avoid hard decisions, hopes things will be better next year. Staff is understandably trying to avoid losing jobs and changes in business practices.

Most “solutions” proposed are also predictable and generally more appropriate for a short term crunch than a long-term sea change, e.g., draw down reserves, reduce travel, postpone capital improvement and maintenance projects, and borrow more.

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