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Keep the cap? 10-4, say Manchester aldermen

On Tuesday night, Manchester's tax-and-spending cap received the overwhelming approval of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The vote was an indication of just how far the political tables have turned in Manchester in the last decade.



In 2005, Alderman Frank Guinta challenged incumbent mayor and heavy favorite Bob Baines. Guinta ran entirely on lowering taxes. Baines wanted higher tax rates and said the people supported higher taxes to pay for better services. Guinta won, and by the end of his short tenure as mayor the heavily Democratic Board of Aldermen was no longer talking about how high they could raise taxes without getting thrown out, but about whether to raise them at all.

It was a huge shift. In 2009, the populist anti-tax movement that brought Guinta into the mayor's office succeeded in passing a spending cap. It was struck down on technical grounds by the state Supreme Court, and in 2011 voters approved a second spending cap, which remains on the books.

Alderman Ed Osborne, a Democrat, proposed that the cap be put on the ballot a third time. The people can now see the consequences of the restraint they have imposed, he argued, and they ought to reconsider. On Tuesday the aldermen defeated Osborne's proposal by a vote of 10-4.

Among those voting against Osborne were Ward 6 Democrat and potential future mayoral candidate Garth Corriveau, At-large Democrat and unwaveringly pro-union Alderman Dan O'Neil, and Ward 12 Alderman Patrick Arnold, the announced Democratic challenger to Mayor Ted Gatsas.

Arnold has criticized Gatsas for proposing too small a budget. He advocates spending more on city services and public schools. But in this election year he would not vote to have the spending cap reconsidered. That speaks volumes.

It says that the cap is so popular with voters that ambitious Democrats dare not come out against it. It also suggests most aldermen know that the real problem is not the cap, but the city's infamous Yarger-Decker pay scale and overly generous employee benefits.


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