Friday, October 31st, 2014

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez sticks to key promises in second budget

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is sworn into office on July 1, 2011.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is sworn into office on July 1, 2011.

When Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez won his race in June 2011, he had just a couple of weeks to unveil his first budget proposal. That forced him to immediately deliver on key promises he  made to voters about reducing spending --  and he delivered on the signature promise to reverse his predecessor’s tax increase.

His second annual budget proposal, released July 12,  comes with similar pressure: He faces the voters in an Aug. 14 primary, where his chief rival is County Commission chairman Joe Martinez. If no candidate wins 50 percent plus 1, then the top two vote getters advance to the Nov. 6 election. That means voters will head to the polls with headlines about their county tax dollars and spending fresh on their minds.

"This is a responsible budget that reduces the tax rate, further cuts property tax revenues, maintains the same levels of service, and avoids further employee layoffs," Gimenez said in his budget message.

Gimenez received another Promise Kept for his goal to reverse the tax hike. In his proposal for the  next budget year, which starts Oct. 1, Gimenez calls for a slight reduction in the tax rate. Whether property owners pay a little more or a little less will depend on their changing property values.

We also gave Gimenez a Promise Kept for not laying off police officers or closing fire stations.  The mayor wants to hire 50 more police officers -- the  union president said earlier this summer that there were hundreds of vacancies.

Gimenez’s goal to create a senior trust fund and a $100 rebate for seniors with the senior homestead exemption  remains  a Compromise: He didn’t propose the  fund again this year because commissioners rejected it last year, but the rebate remains.

Gimenez can’t deliver on his budget promises alone. It’s the 13-member county commission that has the final say on the budget Sept. 20. But four commissioners also face voters this year, so they too have a big incentive to hold the line on taxes.