I think that's a good thing.
At most local government meetings, if there is any audience at all, it usually consists of people looking for something. Unions, non-profits and other special interests are very good at twisting arms and squeezing every nickel they can grab from politicians looking for campaign contributions.
The LV Tea Party, often derided as a bunch of right-wing kooks, changes that dynamic. These folks are largely conservative or libertarian, and like any group, they do attract a few nuts. But in my own dealings with them, I have found them to be basically decent people who are concerned about the direction of this country.
The best way to make a difference is not by writing letters to President Obama or calling Rush Limbaugh, but by participating in local government. Stan Bialecki is a local tea party member who has become a Lehigh County regular. He recently wrote an essay, predicting that Commissioners will take the easy way out, voting against Executive Don Cunningham's budget, which will then become law because they'll reject their amended budget as well. It's a political trick enabling politicians to claim they voted against raising taxes. The Morning Call's Bill White, in a column called "Don't be Surprised if They Duck," reaches pretty much the same conclusion.
Below is Stan's essay, followed by a reply from Dean Browning, who chairs the Commissioners.
There's only one problem with Stan's essay. Dean's not ducking.
LEHIGH COUNTY 16% TAX INCREASE 10/18/2010
This will be the subject line, for my next post. That will be the result of the Commissioners Meeting on October 27th at 7 pm at 17 West 7th Street in Allentown.
You ask how I know?
In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, those "sissy boys" at Lehigh County are lacking the backbone (I'm being nice their all male except Gloria Hamm) to vote for the amended budget.
They would like to campaign saying "I NEVER VOTED FOR A TAX INCREASE". What BULL !!! Do they think we're stupid?? I guess they do. Perhaps they think we will sit on our "A-S" and not attend the meeting, to let them know how we feel. Are they right ??
This is how I expect the vote to go. Hope I'm wrong.
All the democrat's will vote NO.
They have plans to spend the 1.7 mill on other thing, i.e. County Health Department, Regional Crime Center etc. and who knows what else.
Dean Browning (firstname.lastname@example.org) will vote NO because he is up for re-election next year and wants to say he didn't vote for a TAX increase but, we know better.
Andy Roman (email@example.com) will vote NO for the same reason as Dean.
Thomas Creighton (firstname.lastname@example.org) 856-xxx-xxxx [redacted] will vote NO. This one bothers me, I had thought that he had more courage then this. I guess I'm wrong.
Percy Dougherty (email@example.com) 610-xxx-xxxx Will vote NO just like he did last time. If you remember the young man that caused a disturbance at the forum we had, with the County Commissioners last year. This is why he was so upset with Percy.
The last meeting was for show, they really had no intention of voting for this amended budget.
We only have one Commissioner that has any "courage" and that will be Glenn Eckhart. He will Vote to approve the amended budget.
I need your support on the 27th, if for nothing else, to show them that we are awake and will hold them accountable.
Some people think, I work hard for people I believe in. But I really work hard if you disappoint me.
We made a good showing at the last meeting, lets see if we can do it again.
Tom Muller and the administration, think we pay too little in TAXES now, and should pay more.
spending not revenue is the problem
Let’s go through an analysis of the two different budget options and see if there might not be a legitimate difference of opinion on which one is the best option. I think that would be more productive rather than stating that those who would vote against the amended budget are lacking in “courage”. As your group passed a Limited Government Resolution that you want all elected officials to follow, I think that is the appropriate guideline to use for this exercise. As I stated in a previous email, there are two provisions of the Resolution that need to be considered when evaluating the original and the amended budget. They are:
No increase in taxes, and
No “operating deficits”
At this point, the only two options are the original budget and the amended budget, both of which are at varying odds with the two provisions above. So from my standpoint the decision comes down to which option is the best long term fiscal option for the County. To reach a decision on that, let’s look at some of the numbers for each budget option as follows:
Tax increase of 16.1% to 11.9 mils which would generate $106.0 million in revenue for 2011.
Operating deficit of $4.1 million ($110.1 million in expenses less $106.0 million in revenue)
Tax increase of 12.8% to 11.56 mils which would generate $103.0 million in revenue for 2011.
Operating deficit of $5.8 million ($110.1 million in expenses less $1.3 million in cost reductions* less $103.0 million in revenue)
* Reductions from deferred capital projects ($972,000) and the elimination of the General Services Mgr. ($88,123), 2 Deputies ($107,561) and the Main Street Initiatives ($154,446).
One might look at the numbers above and conclude (as you apparently have done) that it is more desirable to have a csmaller tax increase in 2011, regardless of the increase in the “operating deficit” and the effect that would have for 2012. That is an acceptable position to take. However, I think it is equally legitimate to look at the impact the budget decision we will make next week will have on the budget for 2012. To keep things simple and assume there is no change in spending or revenue for 2012, the original budget would lead us to a budget for 2012 with the same $4.1 million operating deficit. Clearly that would have to be filled to avoid another tax increase. Based on the options available to us this year, filling that gap would be a difficult, but not impossible task for the 2012 budget. However, if you make the same assumptions with the amended budget we would be facing an operating deficit of $7.7** million for 2012. Closing that gap would be much more difficult and would greatly complicate the ability to avoid another tax increase in 2012.
** $110.1 million less $.35 million (recurring reductions) plus $.972 million (capital projects that were deferred) less $103.0 million in revenue.
So, in my opinion, it comes down to whether there is a policy preference for a smaller tax increase in 2011 (12.8% instead of 16.1%) followed by an additional one in 2012 (of approximately 6% to 7%) vs. a policy preference for the original increase in 2011 followed by a stable rate for 2012.
Your choice is for the former and my choice is for the latter. And, by the way, whether someone chooses one or the other has nothing to do with “courage”.