Gang of Four:
Allentown, PA – Republican Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning came under fire this week from a team of GOP candidates who say Browning's claims in four recent mass mailings stand in contrast with his behavior during the budget votes last October.
The team -- Scott Ott, Vic Mazziotti, Lisa Scheller and David Najarian -- noted that Browning's statements "contradict his actions" and "vary substantially" from actual budget figures. [Information to verify the team's statement is available from budgets and meeting minutes at the county website: www.LehighCounty.org
Browning's mailer, sent to likely primary-voting Republicans, said he believes "the only way to jump-start our economy" is through "lower taxes" and "less spending." Yet, as the reform team members point out, Browning was the sole Republican to vote with Democrats against a motion to eliminate the 16-percent tax hike. At that same meeting on October 27, 2010, Browning again voted with Democrats against cutting $350,000 from the spending plan. The cuts Browning voted down would have trimmed 3/10ths of one percent of the county-tax-funded portion of the budget, or about 30 cents from every $100 in spending.
As a result of Browning's votes, County Executive Don Cunningham's original budget, with its 16-percent tax hike, passed by default.
The reform team also challenged Browning's claim to have "cut spending."
Vic Mazziotti, a candidate who recently retired as Chief Financial Officer of Northampton County, said, "the spending in the part of the budget the commissioners could control actually grew by just over $11 million from 2008 to 2011, during the time Dean Browning says he was cutting spending."
Candidate David Najarian, a Lynn Township Supervisor with experience rolling back taxes, said, "when politicians say they're cutting spending, they usually mean they're reducing the projected rate of increase. But normal people know that, to actually cut spending, the budget has to be smaller when you're done cutting than it was when you started."
Lisa Scheller, president and CEO of a Tamaqua-based global manufacturing firm, said, "Browning should know better than to say such things to the primary voters; the most committed, knowledgeable Republicans. When we go to home gatherings and other campaign events, people ask us how Dean can say that stuff. I tell them that it is like the tax increase. Dean can say he voted against it, while in fact he guaranteed a 16% tax increase. Their reactions range from laughter to disgust.”
"Dean knew at least as early as 2009 that taxes would jump by double digits in 2011 unless real cuts were made," said candidate Scott Ott, who has praised Browning in public for his knowledge of the budget. "As smart as he is, his behavior on that budget vote makes no sense. I've come to understand that all of the brains in the world are no substitute for a spine. If a Republican can't fight a tax hike during the worst economic times in generations, when will he do it?"
Allentown, April 25, 2011 – The handpicked, party-boss-approved slate of Scott Ott, Lisa Scheller, Vic Mazziotti and Dave Najarian like to talk about cutting taxes and reducing spending, but when asked for specifics about what they would cut, all you get are blank stares and typical political pandering in return, charged conservative businessman and proven reformer Dean Browning today.
"The Ott, Scheller, Mazziotti and Najarian team like to talk about being conservatives and they like to talk about cutting taxes and spending in an attempt to win this election,” said Browning. “But the problem is when reporters or average voters ask them what they plan to cut from county government all you get in return are blank stares and typical political pandering.”
Browning said Lehigh County residents deserve specifics, not sound bites.
“The fact of the matter is that Ott, Scheller, Mazziotti and Najarian have consistently refused to offer any specific cuts or release any detailed plan about what they would do if elected,” continued Browning. “Their entire campaign has been making vague references to ‘studying the budget’ and attacking me. Well, it’s put up or shut up time. They’ve allegedly been studying the budget since it was released last summer and have yet to make a single proposal. People are tired of politicians who are willing to say anything to get elected and refuse to be held accountable.”
Browning challenged the slate’s leader, Scott Ott, to be intellectually honest and state publicly what he’s been saying privately all along – that there was no way to avoid a property tax increase in the 2011 County Budget and that the last minute attempt to send the budget back was little more than a political gimmick meant to shift blame for the property tax increase to County Executive Don Cunningham.
"The truth voters need to hear is that Party Boss Wayne Woodman and his former employee, Scott Ott, cooked up this irresponsible scheme hoping to score political points and neither of them had – nor have – any real plan to reduce spending or lower property taxes”, charged Browning. “When I refused to play games with the county budget and give false hope to county taxpayers by going along with their last-minute gimmick, they decided to challenge me in the primary. In reality, this is all about naked political power – nothing more”.
Browning said he’s got a proven record as a fiscal conservative and is proud to run on it.
"I am a local businessman who has real world experience and a proven record of cutting $14 million in county spending, trimming the county workforce by 75 positions, and reducing the size of county government by taking on powerful public employee union bosses,” said Browning. “I haven't just talked the talk on fiscal conservatism, I’ve walked the walk.”
1) Scott Ott claims that, unlike Browning, he has a spine. Really? It seems to me that Ott wants to get rid of Browning precisely because he voted his conscience instead of following the whims of a party boss who has bankrupted his own party.
2) By the way, since when does www.lehighcounty.org substantiate anything?
3) I'd like Ott to explain why he left the Lehigh County GOP high and dry, and whether he plans to bankrupt Lehigh County as well.