It's the Most Important Issue Facing America

By Blackwood, George | Nation's Cities Weekly, November 4, 1996 | Go to article overview
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It's the Most Important Issue Facing America


Blackwood, George, Nation's Cities Weekly


The National League of Cities is an organization of approximately 135,000 elected municipal officials from all over the United States. Its purpose is to educate, share perspectives with and otherwise unite its members on issues facing the cities of America.

Last year the NLC adopted a resolution which labeled the federal budget deficit the single most important issue facing this country today. The resolution also suggested ways in which the deficit should be addressed in order to balance the budget.

These suggestions include creating a Council of Local Economic Advisor to explore issues relating to regional economies, examine ways to eliminate the deficit and maintain an adequate level of local funding to assure prompt and efficient delivery of city services.

The other ideas include creating a needs assessment component to be applied to all non-means-tested entitlements. And, if based upon this assessment, entitlement benefits are required, they should be taxed on the basis of equality and the ability to pay.

Entitlements are federal programs that guarantee payment to anyone who meets the eligibility standards for various benefits. Non-means tested entitlement programs - those like Social Security which are payable without regard to the economic need of the recipient -- are projected to be the most significant contributors to the impending bankruptcy of the United States.

The NLC maintains that there should be no "sacred cows" in the budget balancing effort. All federal tax expenditures should be subjected to review and change in order that all programs contribute, along with entitlement programs, to deficit reduction. Revenues as well as all discretionary spending must be on the table.

Actions to reduce the deficit which would transfer responsibilities to or impose unfunded mandates on municipal governments must be avoided. Implementation of any deficit reduction plan must provide cities with sufficient regulatory flexibility to be able to operate efficiently under new fiscal realities.

Tax cuts should not be made until concrete legislation to achieve a balanced federal budget is in place.

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