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At forum, Miami-Dade candidates focus on cuts

Miami-Dade mayoral candidates Carlos Gimenez and Julio Robaina, facing off in yet another forum Wednesday, drove home the point that no matter who wins the runoff election June 28, Miami-Dade County government is headed toward far leaner times.

At a roundtable debate at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables sponsored by the Latin American Business Association Wednesday afternoon, both men emphasized their commitment to whittling down the size of Miami-Dade’s sprawling government to fill an estimated $300 million to $400 million budget gap.

The shortfall for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 stems from the plunge in real estate property values amid rising costs for providing county services.

Fielding questions from moderator Humberto Cortina, who is a host on WQBA-1140 (AM) Univisión Radio, Gimenez and Robaina both reiterated their positions that they will eliminate county departments and go on the warpath against the sprawling bureaucracy. 

Gimenez, who resigned from his District 7 County Commission seat to run for county mayor, said county job reductions are inevitable. “There is no way to fill a $300 million to $400 million deficit without cutting,’’ Gimenez said, adding that would include both eliminating jobs and reducing salary and benefits of the remaining workers.

Robaina, who resigned as Hialeah mayor to run for the county mayor’s job, agreed with his opponent, but said he’d look first at cuts among the county’s higher paid employees while protecting “those making $30,000 to $80,000.’’

Gimenez said there is no way to spare those workers, since they account for the vast majority of the county workforce. “You can’t just cut those making over $80,000. It does not compute,’’ said Gimenez. Then he took a shot at Robaina, saying when his opponent pursued budget cuts as mayor of the City of Hialeah, the rank and file “carried the brunt.’’  

Robaina shot back: “That’s false."

--MARTHA BRANNIGAN

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