Lehigh County Republicans are very entertaining because they have a flair for the dramatic. Don't let those suits fool you. Not terribly long ago, before Snarlen Arlen Specter saw the light and jumped into the warm embrace of the Democratic party, Lehigh County's rank and file were trying to censor him or burn him in effigy or something. They can really get fired up. If you pop on their site, they actually seem to have some sort of loyalty oath. Most Democratic sites, in sharp contrast, are little more than directories of local bars and clambakes.
What I remember best about Lehigh County Republicans is the way they reacted after then County Exec Jane Ervin - herself a Republican - imposed a very unpopular 70% tax increase. Before you could say Newt Gingrich, there were all prancing around in tri-corner hats, signing all kinds of important declarations and carrying muskets and stuff like that.
A lot of these dudes should be doing Shakespeare.
GOP commissioner candidates certainly lived up to their reputation yesterday, this time unveiling a “Contract with County Taxpayers," a hand-me-down of Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America. Here are the salient points.
1. Balance the county budget without increasing property taxes or raiding county reserves by 2012. Only support budgets for 2010 and 2011 that significantly cut spending and make credible strides towards that end.Now, this pledge is being sent to all the Democratic candidates, too. Commissioner Dean Browning, who was on hand yesterday, mentioned that all ten candidates - Democratic and GOP - are in this race because they care and want to do what is right for our children. Noting that all county legislators serve as both fiscal watchdog as well as a check and balance for the administration and elected officials, he is asking Democrats to sign on, too.
2. Not approve any public employee union contract that allows wages to grow faster than county revenues or the COLA received those on Social Security.
3. Oppose any effort by Lehigh County to levy a 1% local sales tax in addition to the current state sales tax of 6% as is now being proposed in Harrisburg.
4. Limit to $3,000 the cumulative amount of contribution, either direct or in-kind, we accept from any single campaign donor during the upcoming general election.
5. Reject the taxpayer-funded pay raise we’d be eligible to receive if we win election in November.
But Democrats appear to be troubled and slightly offended by this pledge. They adamantly deny "raiding reserve funds," as claimed by GOP Comm'r Glenn Eckhart. They admit using a tax relief fund to balance the budget, but that's exactly why that fund was established in the first place. "The stabilization fund is our reserve or rainy day fund. We have not touched that, nor will we," said one administrator who asked to remain anonymous.
As far as saving money goes, administrators pointedly note that Republicans actually added to LC Exec Don Cunningham's most recent budget. Instead of reducing wages or planned increases in salary, administrators have curtailed spending by reducing the actual number of employees who work for the county, noting that the current county employment is at its lowest level since 1995.
After the news conference was over, the reporters all left without eating any sandwiches. The Morning Call's Scott Kraus looked really hungry, too, but he's known me for years and knew I'd dime him in a heartbeat. I stuffed all the sandwiches in my laptop bag and met Ron Angle outside, where we unloaded them on Hamilton Street for 50 cents each. I made $3, and bought a Rolexx from some guy on 7th.
Below, I've posted the statements made by Eckart, Smith and Welsh, along with links to the video. For Smith, I posted his actual video because he is such a passionate speaker.