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Monday, July 14, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 74.0° F  Fair
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Citizen Dave: The Madison Common Council makes its mark on the city budget

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When the Madison Common Council starts deliberations on the 2013 budget this evening, they will have already reshaped it in a way that's unprecedented in recent history.

In most years, the final product is almost always essentially about the mayor's vision with council tweaks. But in this case, all of the mayor's most controversial proposals will have been eliminated and replaced by the council's more progressive vision for the city.

Here are the things that will bear the council's stamp:

  • The mayor's "Helping Hands Homeward" program, which would have bussed homeless people to their hometowns regardless of what might await them there, is gone.
  • The mayor's bus fare increase, which came barely a year after he promised not to increase fares, is gone.
  • The mayor's biodgester study, which is actually a good idea but not necessary this year, is gone.
  • The mayor's million dollar cut to Overture is gone. The only question is exactly how much will be added back. I would guess the council's proposal to add back $900,000 or more will pass.
  • The mayor's plan to cut lifeguards and neighborhood skating rinks is gone.
  • And lastly, the mayor's $50,000 lip synching video to catch us up with Grand Rapids is gone.

Every budget is hammered out at the margins. Only a couple million dollars in a $267 million operating budget is really ever in play either for a mayor or a council. That's because most of what the city does is already locked in. Unless you're willing to close fire stations, lay off police officers or stop plowing streets, well over 90% of the budget really isn't up for debate.

In this case, almost two million dollars in mayoral initiatives have been reversed by the council.

Over the last decade, we have never seen a council so successfully reject and refashion a mayor's spending plan. And in every case they will have changed it for the better.

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