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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why the State Budget Impasse Matters to Counties

I was very late for yesterday's news conference featuring Lehigh County Commissioner candidates Percy Dougherty, Bob Smith and Mike Welsh. But I arrived in time to learn what's bothering them - the state's failure to adopt a budget. They blame both parties.

"The politicians in Harrisburg from both political parties are putting partisan politics and special interests before the interests of the people they are supposed to represent," said District 4 Commissioner candidate Mike Welsh. "It needs to stop and it needs to stop now."

District 3 Commissioner candidate Bob Smith, who also serves on the Allentown School Board, added that "what may have started out as a legitimate battle of ideas on how to move our Commonwealth forward has turned into a sad sideshow that underscores why people don't like and don't trust politicians."

Why does this matter in county government?

Percy Dougherty, who chairs the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners, answers that question.
"The bottom line is that Lehigh County's budget of $400 million has less than $100 million raised by property taxes. The rest is State pass through money, which is now frozen. Many of the services that people expect, especially human services, are not paid for by the County but are only administered by the County. We have not been reimbursed for anything since the new budget year on July 1st.

"It is only a matter of time before services to children and youth, mental health and mental retardation, area agency on aging, drug and alcohol, and other critical programs cease to be funded because the County does not have the cash to fund these programs on its own. Some of those programs are mandated and the County has to pay for them even though we do not have the money. A total of $190 million is passed through the Sate to fund our human services budget, only $7 million is provided by the County."

Dougherty points out that even before the budget impasse, the State has been short-changing county government.

"We are tired of the State treating us as second class citizens. The County is already being shorted by the State even before the budget crisis. The State Supreme Court has ordered the legislature to take over court funding, it has not happened. The State gave the DAs a pay increase, but is not reimbursing us. The State is also shorting the funding of the Conservation District, and it has made a mess of the Children and Youth reimbursements under Title IV, which is resulting in counties being stuck with a large bill. Now they are asking us to pay their bills while they argue over the budget."

I have a video excerpt of some of their comments, which you can view here.


Anonymous said...

The State budget in 2003 was not passed until December. These guys should ask some of the folks who were running these programs, like Human Services then how they were able to juggle the problems.

Anonymous said...

This is the same state that everyone thinks is going to give us millions to run a health department??? Hilarious..Go Angle!!!

Anonymous said...

The Republicans in Northampton County want the Health Department. Another reason they support Stoffa.

Anonymous said...

Republicans want a health department!?!?


We'd prefer to simply light dollars on fire as a way to salve Democrats' guilty consciences.

Anonymous said...

Cusick, Ferraro. Dowd, Shuman, Stoffa all want a health Department. They have all endorsed it.

You can fool some of the sheeple but not all. Country Club Republicans.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is not a Dem v. R issue. Your attempt to inject party politics into this proposal is misplaced. Dertinger, Seyfried, Neiper, Reibman and McHale - Democratsd all - have publicly supported a bicounty health department, no matter what they may have whispered in your ear.

Anonymous said...

The Health Department is a LV Partnership initiative. That is a Republican owned and operated group of businessmen.

I guess some of you are so conditioned by the so-called Republican officials in Northampton County, you really don't know what a real Republican is.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I know what a real troll is. I don't care if this is a Republican or Demcratic idea or whether the LVP is behnd it. I care whether it is a good idea or a bad idea, and time will tell.