WSJ reporter pays Springfield a visit

Matt Wagner, SBJ ReporterA week ago today, a Wall Street Journal reporter from New York was in downtown Springfield interviewing people about the 1-cent sales tax proposal that narrowly failed at the polls Tuesday.

Toting a digital video camera, reporter Anton Troianovski talked with locals at the Discovery Center and Park Central branch library about the proposed tax, which would have shored up a rapidly expanding $200 million shortfall plaguing the Police and Fire Pension Plan. But a majority of Springfield voters – albeit a slim one – rejected the tax. Only 19,201 people voted on the tax Tuesday, but 10,041 of them opposed it.

The result, according to city management, is that significant budget cuts will be implemented for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1. City Manager Greg Burris told Springfield City Council in January that the worst-case scenario – a failed sales tax increase coupled with 1.5 percent declines in sales tax revenue this year and next – would mean $5.7 million in budget reductions, on top of $5.2 million in cuts already in place this year. Burris told the Springfield News-Leader this week that revenues from the city’s existing sales tax haven’t been meeting projections.

As for Troianovski’s WSJ article, there’s little to report. The recent Harvard grad said he couldn’t talk about the gist of his story or whether material he gathered while in Springfield would make the final cut. He did, however, promise to let me know when there’s a firm publication date. He also passed along the name of a Web site – www.pensiontsunami.com – that monitors pension fund crises throughout the country.

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