Budget Showdown Could Prompt Veto
The ongoing budget impasse between members of Cincinnati City Council is about personality conflicts as much as policy differences, sources say.
As matters stand now, city council will likely approve a two-year spending plan Wednesday afternoon in a 5-4 vote, bringing to an end the trend in recent years of having the overall budget passed by a solid majority of eight or nine members.
A council majority consisting of Democrats Jeff Berding and Laketa Cole, Republicans Chris Monzel and Leslie Ghiz and Charterite Chris Bortz are pushing to make steeper cuts to the city’s Health Department than the one proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. The faction wants to cut $3 million from the department, but let staffers decide how to best make the reductions. One possibility involves closing three of the city’s nine health clinics.
The same types of healthcare services are provided to low-income residents by Hamilton County through its indigent care levy, so the impact would be negligible, the majority says.
On the debate’s other side, Democrats John Cranley, David Crowley and Cecil Thomas, along with Charterite Jim Tarbell, oppose closing any health clinics. They believe the clinics play a vital role in offering preventative care to inner-city children with no insurance.
Mayor Mark Mallory agrees with the stance and has indicated he might veto the majority’s budget. Because it requires six votes to override a veto, the showdown could continue well into the New Year. As a result, city attorneys have been instructed to also prepare an interim budget ordinance to cover expenses for the first two months of 2007, in case negotiations linger.
Privately, the five-member majority grumble that Cranley — who has been council’s Finance Committee chair for several years — has avoided making permanent cuts to end the city’s structural imbalance in the budget, preferring instead to rely on temporary solutions such as using carryover funds from previous years or paying less into Cincinnati’s pension system. Also, some members are upset that Cranley spent little time on his council duties during the past year due to his unsuccessful congressional campaign against Republican incumbent Steve Chabot.
For more on the budget spat, read this week’s issue of CityBeat, which hits newsstands on Wednesday.
— Kevin Osborne