The federal government's priorities are skewed in attempting to balance the budget on the back of "hometown America," the president of the National League of Cities and Towns told a convention Wednesday.
"The issue is not lack of money, it's how priorities are set up," Pamela Plumb, president of the group told its Utah chapter at a Salt Lake convention Wednesday.Government officials from 200 Utah municipalities are meeting in a downtown hotel for the group's 81st annual convention. Salt Lake Mayor Palmer Depaulis, president of the state league, welcomed conventioneers Wednesday noon.
The Gramm-Rudman Amendment and decisions made at last year's congressional budget summit have limited growth in most sectors of government but federal support for cities has particularly suffered, Plumb said.
Additionally, cities can no longer take advantage of the federal revenue-sharing program, once an important source of funding for all municipalities. This summer, Congress also eliminated funding for Urban Development Action Grants, Plumb said.
Admitting that the nation's space program is a "tough subject" in Utah because of the plethora of space-related industries such as Morton Thiokol, Plumb said NASA has received funding cities and towns could have used.
Plumb said other areas should bear the burden of the nation's deficit rather than "hometown America."
For example, Plumb pointed out that Defense Department budgets enjoy budget increases over the rate of inflation, unlike many municipal programs. Additionally, many entitlement programs such as Social Security have not felt the edge of the budget ax, she said.
"It seems to me (the federal government) no longer reflects the priorities of the nation," she said.
Quoting a New York Times poll, Plumb said most citizens believe domestic programs such as education are more important than aid to foreign countries and funding for military programs.
Speaking on ways to deal with a shortage of federal assistance, Plumb said the National League of Cities and Towns is lobbying Congress to pass a bill creating a mail-order purchase tax generating revenue for municipalities.
Additionally, the organization is spearheading "Election 88," a campaign to communicate with presidential candidates to get "municipal issues back on the national agenda."
"We must not let our . . . national leaders lose sight of what is important in hometown America," she said.