The Atlanta Journal Constitution asked mayoral candidates, myself and others how to fix the city's $71 million budget deficit for a feature in Sunday's edition. The AJC feature isn't posted online yet, but my short answer was:
Atlanta's deficit was caused by poor fiscal management and the city needs a three-step budget makeover.
First, shift to outcome-based budgeting. Politicians and taxpayers must rank their budget priorities, funding the most important items at the top of the list. Then go down the list in order until you are out of money. This makes budgeting priorities transparent to everyone.
Second, more competition. Indianapolis and Charlotte reduced spending and improved services by requiring public employees and private companies to bid for contracts. Even when government employees win the contract, it is for much less than current costs – saving taxpayers millions.
Finally, lease infrastructure to private operators. Chicago has generated over $3 billion recently by leasing roads, parking garages and more. The proceeds can build needed roads, pay long-term pension obligations and set up a rainy-day fund.
Tax increases aren't the answer. Atlanta's government can be better and cheaper.
UPDATE: The AJC piece is now posted here.