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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bowning Takes Balanced Budget Proposal to NorCo Council

Browning pitches balanced budget
Former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning made an unlikely trip west east of Route 33 on August 19. He was invited to Northampton County's Finance Committee to explain his proposal for a balanced budget amendment to the Home Rule Charter. Browning made a similar presentation to Lehigh County Commissioners earlier this year, and was politely ignored. The Republican majority blames him for everything, including gypsy moths and the flu. His reception in Northampton County was much warmer.

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.


Peter J.Cochran said...

Bernie, when you said 'unlikely trip West of route 33 ,did mean EAST in this context?

Anonymous said...

What the Hell are you talking about there Petey?

Peter J.Cochran said...

Top of page ,states off Mr.Dean Browning made an unlikely trip West...... I happen to agree with Mr. Browning,my hat off to him he is a great citizen.

Anonymous said...

It is too complicated to comprehend. Are you stating that if the "STATE" decides to delay reimbursement to Counties (as they have done many times) then you get a windfall in a later year (reimbursement from the State), that you cannot put this money into a cash reserve fund, or if it goes into a cash reserve fund, you cannot use it to balance a budget the following year? Do you know what County Budgets and State budgets are all about, especially the politics played on the state level? This would create a yo-yo effect in property taxes. There has to be a better way to protect this "cash reserve fund" than what is being proposed. Be careful what you wish for....you just might get it.

Anonymous said...

Petey is right on target, 4:41AM. Maybe if you got more sleep you'd know right from left.

What is your excuse, Bernie? Hot tub time machine? He made an unlikely trip east of Route 33. Thanks for the article by the way - well done.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I meant east of Route 33.

Anonymous said...

Browning's been twice rejected by voters in his own county. He was actually tossed out on his ass. Why is he relevant anywhere, if so rejected at home?

Anonymous said...

Browning should stay in Lehigh county with his ideas and hid ways

Anonymous said...

Actually, Browning's been rejected 4 times by voters in his own county.

Anonymous said...

This proposal is both stupid an dangerous. Not sure where to begin, but a few points:

1) The problem starts with the mistaken notion that "In both counties, spending almost always exceeds revenue". That's simply not true. It was probably different during Dean's tenure, but in Lehigh County the reserve fund has held steady at $25 million for the last three years, thanks to the oversight of the county commissioners.

2) You have to remember that one of the ways to "balance the budget" is by raising taxes. Not a good result, but I'd hate to see either Executive be forced by this proposal to raise taxes based on BUDGETED numbers. Budgets can be off, and things can change between the time the budget is presented and the end of the year.

3) As another comment pointed out, there are times when monies received do not match when they are expended.

4) You'd be keeping reserves at an artificial (and perhaps unnecessary) surplus. So people could be getting tax hikes so the surplus reserves can keep increasing. No thanks, it's our money.

5) This proposal would take away the responsibility for a tax hike by giving politicians the ability to blame the Balanced Budget provision of the Charter. Maybe that's the reason.

The proposal might be couched in a nice name, but it's this kind of thinking that got Lehigh County a 16% tax hike a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Thank you 3:26, In Bernie's haste to praise another mancrush he fails to realize the problems with this simplistic idea. Browning displays the typical liberal businessman ignorance of how county budgets operate. Even though he serve3d as a commissioner he must have been to busy listening to his own voice to learn anything.

Anon 3:26 makes great point sand there are other budget and service issues as well that would be adversely affected.

Browning has proposed a "let there be love in the world" ordinance. Of course he will let others figure out how to implement it.