Brad Osborne Explains County Budget Vote Criticized by Fellow Republicans
In an editorial submitted to Patch, Brad Osborne, chairman of the Lehigh County Commissioners, details his reasoning behind a controversial budget vote that upset fellow Republicans.
Brad Osborne, chairman of the Lehigh County Commissioners, came under fire this week after a controversial vote against a budget proposed by fellow Republicans.
There was talk of stripping him of his chairman title but the Morning Call reports there was no attempt to do so at the Nov. 20 meeting.
Osborne submitted the following editorial to Patch explaining his budget vote:
Taxpayers in Lehigh County deserve real fiscal discipline from their elected officials. To effectively reduce the size of county government and lower taxes, it will be necessary to identify and eliminate wasteful expenditures, implement efficiencies, and frankly, learn to live without all but the most essential spending – not just for today, but also for the long term.
At last week’s commissioner’s meeting, I cast what some have labeled a controversial vote concerning the 2013 County budget. It was certainly the deciding vote. I feel I owe residents and taxpayers an explanation so that they may judge for themselves whether I made the right decision.
There were two competing budget plans before us that evening. The first plan was brought forth by five commissioners and the alternate plan presented by the County Executive, which I ended up supporting.
The first plan was presented to the full board and the public less than 10 hours before the start of the first budget hearing. This was after seven weeks of study, one postponed deadline and one missed deadline. That is not how the budget process is supposed to work, and indeed, that budget plan contained two serious flaws that needed to be addressed.
First, the sponsors of this plan chose not to use our ability as commissioners to achieve the very worthy goal of limited government with a line-by-line, program-by-program breakdown. Instead, they merely proposed what seemed to be an arbitrary $5 million in budget cuts. They left the difficult work of actual cuts to others.
Second, the plan also failed to recognize the basic tenet of true fiscal conservatism – reducing the nearly $8 million structural deficit. In terms we all understand, they were putting the cart before the horse. By proposing a tax rate cut in the same amount as expense cuts, it did nothing to reduce the deficit. In all levels of government, any budget that fails to address a deficit is not a plan that protects the taxpayer.
Therefore, I supported the County Executive’s alternate budget because it corrected the deficiencies in the first plan and achieved the three goals I set out as priorities in the beginning of this process:
1. Requirement that spending is less in 2013 than in 2012, and spelling out specifically where those cuts come from. This assigns ownership to the supporters of the plan, which seems only right. In this plan, the cuts totaled $3.5 million from the proposed 2013 budget.
2. Include a responsible tax cut, in this case $3 million, combined with a one-time tax credit, to provide $6.5 million of immediate relief for Lehigh County taxpayers.
3. Begin the process of closing the structural deficit between revenues and expenses, which the Executive’s plan did by half a million dollars.
All this was achieved in a collegial bipartisan fashion with commissioners who thoughtfully balanced the interests of the taxpayers and the needs of county government. This budget succeeds in moving Lehigh County in the right direction.
Finally, trying to do the right thing isn’t always easy. And we must always keep in mind that even people of the same party can and will disagree. With the budget behind us now, it is time to push forward and work together to continue improving Lehigh County government.