Friday, January 30, 2009

From the Horse's Mouth - Councilman Burlison's Statement on the Spfd Police/Fire Pension Fund Sales Tax

I was on a short list of local bloggers to receive the following statement from Councilman Doug Burlison this evening. It was sent to me with pretty much the same subject line used in the title of this post and is what it is. I have neither endorsed nor opposed the pension sales tax, myself, and continue to be very conflicted on the matter. All of us have our own opinions about it. I can certainly respect and understand Mr. Burlison's position, as well as many of the positions I have heard and read in opposition to the tax. - Jackie

Councilman Burlison's statement:

As January comes to a close, we are at the doorstep of decision time. Many voices have expressed support or opposition to the proposed 1 cent sales tax to repair the Tier 1 Police and Fire pension fund. If the numerous statements indicate the level of legitimate concern for our community, then Springfield is, indeed, a fortunate city in that a lot of us do actually care what happens here.
I've had the priviledge of serving this community on City Council for almost two years now. Prior to that, I was instrumental in having the State of Missouri audit our city. Early on in my term on the council, I resigned my position as the Chief Petitioner of the Springfield audit in order to reduce any conflict of interest, and to move into a place where I could help fix the problem, rather than just work to identify it. One of my first votes on the council was to oppose seeking authorization from Jeff City for this sales tax. My reasoning was that if we receive the go ahead for this proposal, then we would not explore any other options to fund the shortfall. In spite of my concerns, many options have been discussed over the last couple of years, especially during the 2009 budget deliberations. In a departure from the past, direct public participation was included the budget process, and a wide range of ideas was brought to the table for consideration. In light of all of this, I believe that it has become increasingly clear that there is only one mechanism that will be sufficient to take care of our shortfall in the time frame reqiured, and that is the 1 cent sales tax.
I have great respect for those that oppose this measure, and to denigrate those views would be disrespectful. It is that voice of opposition, in fact, that we need to continually keep our feet to the fire as we move forward, regardless of the outcome of this election. Those that support this measure, however, are earnestly looking at the real mathematical challenges, not just the minimum contributions required by state law. In another first (at least in my recollection), commitments have been made by the current City Council, in writing, to insure that these funds are spent as the voters intend. The resolution that we recently passed has added other protections that secures the interests of the taxpayer, and the pension fund recipient. The current management, and a majority of the upcoming City Council will not have had a hand in getting us to this point, yet will need the tools to fix this problem. The question is, "Do we take care of this now?" I think at the rate of at least $39,000 per day of interest income lost, the answer is a resounding, "Yes!" I have no personal love of taxes, and have worked to avoid increasing them. Higher taxes are not good for any public economy, but then again, neither is banckruptcy. If we do pass this measure, we need to work to shorten it's duration as much as possible; but before anything else, we need to insure that the shortfall in the pension fund gets taken care of, completely.
My main motivation behind my support of the 1 cent proposal is to avoid passing this problem on to others so they will have to take care of it in the future. Instead of handing down a list of bad choices to subsequent councils, and instead of sticking my head in the sand and letting my children's generation deal with this, I will take a stand that is politically unpopular with several in our community, and vote in support of the sales tax. The honest truth is that this proposal is the cheapest way to shore up this pension plan, and any delays will greatly increase the mountain of liability that we will have to overcome. At the risk of offending some, this additional sales tax is the most fiscally responsible thing to do out of the options we have available to us. I am asking you to join with me on February 3rd, and vote "yes" on the pension fund sales tax.


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