Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Don’t override 5-percent veto

When they meet Tuesday at County Hall, Miami-Dade commissioners should do the the math. So far, they’ve seemed to only be making a political calculation. And though it might win them friends come reelection time, a majority of commissioners are doing real damage to the county budget.

On Saturday, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the commission’s Dec. 5 vote that restored 5 percent of some county employees’ base pay. That 5 percent has made up these employees’ contribution to group healthcare costs. A commission majority, swayed by the appeals of union workers who, understandably, want what amounts to a salary increase, eliminated the contribution.

On Saturday, the mayor eliminated the elimination. That was the responsible thing to do. The alternative would affect far more than the county workers: About $27 million stood to be cut from general revenue; Jackson Health System, still working toward enduring solvency, would be forced to readjust its budget. Layoffs and fee increases would help no one, and commissioners shouldn’t even think about raiding reserves.

Plus, Mayor Gimenez is not tone-deaf — he brought a reasonable alternative to the table along with his veto pen. He proposes to give one-time bonuses to many of the county’s lowest-paid employees. Those making less than $40,000 would get $1,500. Those who earn between $40,000 and $50,000 would get $1,000.

Commissioners should reach for their calculators. They’ll be accountable for way more than the county workers affected. They’ll have to explain why county parks are in shabbier condition after maintenance is curtailed; they’ll have to tell more than 100 workers why they’re out of a job, instead of having the temerity to explain that a paycheck, even one minus 5 percent of base pay, is better all around. Jackson Health System would consider cutting 240 full-time positions.

The commissioners who approved the 5-percent base-pay restoration should not compound their irresponsibility by voting to create unemployed residents and undercut needed services in this still-fragile economy.

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