Baltimore Faces Grim Budget Realities

Baltimore Faces Grim Budget Realities

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Sitting beyond the outer rim of Washington, D.C.’s Beltway is Baltimore, the gentrifying, stumbling gotham of the crab cake state.  It is Maryland’s largest city and the state’s indisputable center of politics, commerce and culture.  But, it’s also a wicked poster child for urban decay, as sadly reputable for award-winning crime and corruption dramas like HBO’s The Wire as it is for its comparatively young Super Bowl football franchise and the splendor of its National Harbor.

It’s been a tough ride for Baltimore over the past few years.  With its national image still a bit tattered by an unwelcome Hollywood portrait, Baltimore is still recovering from the embarrassment of a convicted former Mayor caught with her hand in the procurement cookie jar.  Vast square-miles of ghetto are still plotted by countless scores of abandoned homes.  Residents adjust to crime and drug corners while the government seems slow to respond.  And despite a former Mayor now a two-term Governor in Annapolis, the hard economic times find the city on the harbor scraping at the bone of its fiscal knuckles.

It’s a scene repeated in a number of cities nationwide, with this predominantly African American city of less than 600,000 faced with a second year of budget shortfalls to the tune of $80 million.  And while it is somewhat less than last year’s $121 million gap from the previous year, it’s another example of a city hall with a forced hand as Baltimore government workers have already seen an across-the-board 2% pay cut in their paychecks.

But, the unfolding political drama over the budget could get even worse if City Hall and City Council hit an impasse over whether or not to increase taxes and how deep to extend service cuts.

Alan Z. Forman and Stephen Janis report in the Investigative Voice:

It’s an annual rite of passage at Baltimore City Hall:  The so-called “doomsday” budget.

A worst-case fiscal scenario presented to the City Council that predicts massive layoffs of cops and firefighters, as well as firehouse closures, the result of yet another fiscal deficit.

Privately council members express frustration with the dire scenario they say is little more than a ploy to soften up the legislative body for tax increases.

But at Thursday night’s Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing, several members of the body charged with oversight of Baltimore’s billion-dollar budget struck back.

Baltimore will face the challenge of declining city revenues and a short-falling state treasury facing problems of its own.  Typically, the city could rely on the cushion of a cash infusion from the state to save it.  But, grim fiscal realities in Annapolis are predicted to exacerbate fiscal woes state wide.

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