by Nick Dranias
Proposition 200 is marketed as an effort to focus Tucson on giving priority funding to core local government services–law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire protection–in order to generate better response times. But the truth is it would just mandate more government spending with no strings attached.
The hiring mandates tied to the city charter amendment would be imposed on city taxpayers regardless of economic circumstances, and they won’t be cheap. Independent audits estimate Prop. 200 would cost $150 million over the next five years.
Perhaps this major new expense could be justified if Prop. 200 included a strong mechanism for ensuring it would actually result in improved public safety. But there is no consequence if the funding does not, in fact, result in better service.
There is a better way.
The recent Goldwater Institute report, “A New Charter for American Cities,” recommends that funding for public-safety services be tied to performance goals. Police and fire departments that fail to meet their goals should see their operations competitively outsourced to the county, nearby municipalities or even the private sector.
If all else fails, residents and businesses should be given property tax credits for hiring private security or fire-protection firms to furnish public safety services.
By contrast, Proposition 200 would mandate hiring scores of new government employees without requiring spending be reduced elsewhere or imposing any incentive for good performance or consequence for bad performance.
This won’t put public safety first; it will just bloat city government.
Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute’s Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.