MoCo Unions Quiz County Leaders
Leaders of the six labor unions that represent more than 30,000 Montgomery County employees quizzed elected leaders last night on the county's budget crunch and politely pressed them to stick with wage and benefit agreements.
The meeting was just the beginning of the budget debate that officially begins next month when County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) submits his fiscal 2009 blueprint for closing a $297 million gap.
Union members representing police officers, firefighters, teachers, principals and general government workers challenged the depth of the county's budget shortfall, noting that in past years revenues have come in higher than anticipated.
Leggett assured them in stark terms that "this problem is real." "To bury our heads in the sand and in effect pretend it does not exist would be a disservice," he said. "This notion that someone wants to lowball" the shortfall, he added, "it's foolhardy."
Among the council members attending the forum last night, Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) was the only one to pledge to honor the employee contracts. Council member Phil Andrews, in contrast, was the lone council member to tell the group that their planned salary increases are "unsustainable."
"I think everyone needs to help," he said of the county's budget problems. "Everyone should be asked to contribute to the solution."
Not surprisingly, his assertion was met with head-shaking and pointed questions.
"Why is it you want the people in this room to pay twice," asked David Rodich, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 500.
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