ABILITY TO PAY: The Public Employee Dilemma - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 31, No. 2
Charles C. Mulcahy
Mr. Mulcahy is senior partner of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin law firm of Mulcahy & Wherry, S.G., is a member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and is a lecturer at law at the Marquette University Law School. This article is based upon his presentation at a conference in Washington, D.C, "Public Sector Labor Relations in a Trouble Economy" sponsored by the American Arbitration Association and Labor Management Relations Service.
Local government officials face a never-ending series of financial problems stemming from increased costs of providing the same and additional services. Although the public is becoming increasingly audible in opposition to tax increases, apathy continues in local elections and small pressure groups continue to be successful in promoting new programs and wage increases for public employees. Within this framework, the short- and long-range objectives of local government can only be met when a sound financial plan has been developed and followed by the elected officials and staff of the local government unit. By establishing this plan based upon realistic priorities, local government can survive. Failure to follow a sound financial plan can lead to unnecessary and burdensome tax increases and potential municipal bankruptcy. Growing concern in this area has prompted the Congress to consider a variety of amendments to the Federal Bankruptcy Act to provide for orderly procedures in the event a local government unit is unable to meet its financial obligations.