By Jeremiah Stettler
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake City, UT (December 6, 2007)- Which matters more to Salt Lake County: someone to tend trees or someone to track spouse beaters? That question looms over Salt Lake County’s newly approved budget as Mayor Peter Corroon threatens to veto the district attorney’s spending plan as overly plump with additional personnel.
The Democratic mayor wants cuts. The Republican-led County Council wants them elsewhere. And the impasse has prompted a partisan battle over an $811 million budget that council members approved Tuesday. “My job is to manage the budget,” Corroon said Wednesday. “That is what I’m trying to do. I don’t want to get into fights, but I want to make sure we protect our citizens, both in terms of public safety and their pocketbooks.”
If Corroon makes good on his veto, it would be the first of his administration. The mayor’s priorities are roiling Republicans. Here’s one reason why:
* Corroon kept intact his $250,000 urban-forestry program. But he urged a quarter-million-dollar reduction – under veto threat – from the District Attorney’s Office. Republican D.A. Lohra Miller shaved four staffers, including a domestic-violence-warrants coordinator, from her hiring plan.
* Republican Councilman Jeff Allen accuses Corroon of “putting dollars ahead of victims.”
“It shows that the mayor is fiscally clueless,” he said, “not fiscally responsible.” Corroon stands by his decision. He called for the cuts, but explained that the D.A. picked them from a budget that includes 16 new employees and $1.3 million in extra spending.
The mayor isn’t convinced Miller needs the new staffers- she initially requested 40- when state courts report a five-year drop in felony and criminal filings. “We certainly aren’t jeopardizing public safety by these initiatives,” Corroon said.
As for the forestry position? It’s part of public health, he said, which is “equally important.” The council is closing ranks along partisan lines- with the five Republicans rallying behind the D.A. and the four Democrats vowing to stick together to prevent a sixth vote for a veto override.
On Wednesday, Miller said she had little choice but to accept Corroon’s staff reduction. Not only did the mayor solicit a legal opinion from her office on his line-item veto powers, she said, but he also told her that he was considering exercising that authority.
Council Democrats defend their mayor, saying the county must trim ongoing expenses (like new hires in the D.A.’s office) to avoid an estimated $2 million to $3 million shortfall in the general fund next year – when Corroon and some council members are up for re-election. “That is what the line-item veto is there for,” Democratic Councilman Joe Hatch said. “It is a check on elected public officials and a County Council run amok.”
For the full article, visit the Salt Lake Tribune.
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