|Browning pitches balanced budget|
In both counties, spending almost always exceeds revenue, so they dip into cash reserves to make up the difference. "That's the path of least resistance and works extremely well until you run out of reserves," noted Browning. That's what Ron Angle likes to call the seed corn. Eventually, you run out of it. Over the past dozen years, Lehigh County has had two unpopular tax increases. Northampton County has had three.
"Families don't budget that way, at least not if they want to stay out of bankruptcy," observed Browning earlier this year. "Businesses don't budget that way, at least not successful ones."
Northampton County's Home Rule Charter considers the budget balanced so long as the proposed expenditures do not exceed the amount of funds available. [Section 703(b)]. Similarly, Lehigh County's Home Rule Charter allows the "balancing" to be accomplished by using "the total of estimated income AND cash reserves."
Brown insists this has to change. He is suggesting a "balanced budget amendment" to the Home Rule Charter in Lehigh "that would prohibit the use of cash reserves as a means to balance the budget." There would be exceptions for emergencies or to give a credit to taxpayers when the underlying budget is still balanced, but that would need six votes.
"Everybody buys into the theory, the problem is with the mechanics," noted Hayden Phillips.He suggested that they all need to "noodle" this idea a bit more.