There’s a lot of hand-wringing in local governments about how the economic downturn has hurt their revenues. Most local governments in Barrow County have been making cuts because the flow of tax money has slowed to a trickle. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For years, some city and county governments were booming with double-digit growth in their spending year after year. Too many county and city government officials got fat and lazy, hiking salaries and benefits and adding staff. Few elected officials bothered to question that explosion in government spending, thinking the easy money would last forever.

Then came the bust.

If you’re a government official, that is bad. But if you’re a citizen who believes government has grown too big and that citizens are being taxed too much, there may be a silver lining to this decline in government income.

Government officials will never, on their own, control spending. The record shows that they lack the discipline to do so. The only hope for trimming the growth in government is by cutting the money off and putting local governments on a diet.

Until the current recession, nobody in government had ever had to cut spending. Nothing has ever restrained the growth in government. Now the lack of money is, for the first time, forcing government officials to make some hard choices and to actually cut spending.

Get ready, though, because some local governments are wanting to raise taxes this year. With the state cutting out the homestead “rebates” to local governments, many local cities and counties are preparing to use that as an excuse to hike millage rates.

But taxpayers should fight any effort by any local government to raise millage rates this year. Taxpayers should demand that there be no tax hike of any kind in 2009. Instead, citizens should demand that governments continue to cut expenses.

A couple weeks ago, some participated in a “tea party” rally to protest federal spending. But if those people are really serious about cutting taxes, they should put their focus not on Washington, but rather on their local town councils and county governments.

The economy has put local governments on a diet. Taxpayers should keep them on that diet by making sure elected officials don’t hike taxes this year.

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