The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Baltimore City budget troubles?
Only if you are a poorly paid worker

Jul 16, 2001

The Baltimore City Council announced that its new budget came up 20 million dollars short. Its solution to its budget deficit was to pass a higher income tax for Baltimore City residents and to cut 140 city workers’ jobs.

In the months leading up to the budget announcement, politicians had threatened that they might have to cut trash collections, they might have to close 20 rec centers, they would be shutting five library branches, etc.

But the city council didn’t carry out these threats – so far – because by threatening, it got what it wanted: higher taxes and fewer city jobs. It was a con game, that’s all, trying to play us for chumps, making us think those were the only choices.

No! There were other ways to make up the deficit. The council could have chosen to give back their own pay raises or the raises which put the mayor and five deputy mayors at salaries over $100,000 apiece.

Even though 20 million dollars sounds like a lot of money, it is only a crumb in their 1.66 billion dollar budget, a little over one%. And there are plenty of slices of cake, not just crumbs, for their pals who are rich and politically-connected. For example, the city with a deficit signed a 99-year lease with one of the biggest developers in town, Cordish Company and arranged a million dollar loan for the Sylvan Learning Corporation. Since the NFL Ravens team began playing five years ago in Baltimore, the city has accepted $1a year (yes, a dollar per year) for the lease of a training facility.

For the big redevelopment project on the west side, the city has paid businesses compensation to move them out of the way. Taxpayers paid over $130,000 to one businessman who didn’t want to move part of his inventory up the block to a different store he owned. Another business owner got more than $500,000 for inventory he didn’t sell, although he could have moved the unsold goods to another store he owned two blocks away.

As for the job layoffs, the city just approved the first privatization contract for the jobs of the workers it is laying off from the Bureau of General Services – janitors, guards, landscapers, etc. Instead of city jobs paying $10 to $12 per hour with benefits, the job rate will be $8.20 per hour with no benefits – except to the Abacus Corporation, which won the contract and will make big profits off it.

They shouldn’t think they fooled us. We aren’t chumps.