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Brad Osborne Explains County Budget Vote Criticized by Fellow Republicans

In an editorial submitted to Patch, Brad Osborne, chairman of the Lehigh County Commissioners, details his reasoning behind a controversial budget vote that upset fellow Republicans.

 

Brad Osborne, chairman of the Lehigh County Commissioners, came under fire this week after a controversial vote against a budget proposed by fellow Republicans.

There was talk of stripping him of his chairman title but the Morning Call reports there was no attempt to do so at the Nov. 20 meeting.

Osborne submitted the following editorial to Patch explaining his budget vote:

Taxpayers in Lehigh County deserve real fiscal discipline from their elected officials. To effectively reduce the size of county government and lower taxes, it will be necessary to identify and eliminate wasteful expenditures, implement efficiencies, and frankly, learn to live without all but the most essential spending – not just for today, but also for the long term.

At last week’s commissioner’s meeting, I cast what some have labeled a controversial vote concerning the 2013 County budget. It was certainly the deciding vote. I feel I owe residents and taxpayers an explanation so that they may judge for themselves whether I made the right decision.

There were two competing budget plans before us that evening. The first plan was brought forth by five commissioners and the alternate plan presented by the County Executive, which I ended up supporting.

The first plan was presented to the full board and the public less than 10 hours before the start of the first budget hearing. This was after seven weeks of study, one postponed deadline and one missed deadline. That is not how the budget process is supposed to work, and indeed, that budget plan contained two serious flaws that needed to be addressed.

First, the sponsors of this plan chose not to use our ability as commissioners to achieve the very worthy goal of limited government with a line-by-line, program-by-program breakdown. Instead, they merely proposed what seemed to be an arbitrary $5 million in budget cuts. They left the difficult work of actual cuts to others.

Second, the plan also failed to recognize the basic tenet of true fiscal conservatism – reducing the nearly $8 million structural deficit. In terms we all understand, they were putting the cart before the horse. By proposing a tax rate cut in the same amount as expense cuts, it did nothing to reduce the deficit. In all levels of government, any budget that fails to address a deficit is not a plan that protects the taxpayer.

Therefore, I supported the County Executive’s alternate budget because it corrected the deficiencies in the first plan and achieved the three goals I set out as priorities in the beginning of this process:

1. Requirement that spending is less in 2013 than in 2012, and spelling out specifically where those cuts come from. This assigns ownership to the supporters of the plan, which seems only right. In this plan, the cuts totaled $3.5 million from the proposed 2013 budget.

2. Include a responsible tax cut, in this case $3 million, combined with a one-time tax credit, to provide $6.5 million of immediate relief for Lehigh County taxpayers.

3. Begin the process of closing the structural deficit between revenues and expenses, which the Executive’s plan did by half a million dollars.

All this was achieved in a collegial bipartisan fashion with commissioners who thoughtfully balanced the interests of the taxpayers and the needs of county government. This budget succeeds in moving Lehigh County in the right direction.

Finally, trying to do the right thing isn’t always easy. And we must always keep in mind that even people of the same party can and will disagree. With the budget behind us now, it is time to push forward and work together to continue improving Lehigh County government.

Ron Beitler November 24, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Osborne and Dougherty are consensus builders. We need more like them. Not less. You only need to look nationally what rigid ideologues have accomplished in nearly pushing us off the fiscal cliff. It seems as though some would like to play political chicken rather then compromise.. Sound familiar with the national stage? My question is how do we come to the 5 million figure? Just an arbitrary number? $3.5 million in new spending cuts and a $3 million tax reduction is a significant achievement brokered by Dougherty and Osborne. Personally I think reform coalition would be wrong to target Osborne and Dougherty in a primary. It would be bad for the Republican party. This animosity between the right wingers and the moderates in the party hurts everyone.
Joe Corcoran November 24, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Thanks for communicating your thoughts on this Commissioner and for taking a smart approach to the budget process. The first budget proprosal you spoke of was an irresponsible and short-sighted attempt by some grandstanders to say they cut the budget and taxes without getting any blood on their hands. I'm not sure what makes them think that you can cut taxes and spending in equal amounts and still reduce the structural deficit. There is still work to be done to our county finances in the next several years but hopefully you and the county executive can lead the way in making the tough decisions that you will face. Just like in our federal government we need smart people to work together and stop grandstanding over political positions.
Mark Spengler November 24, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Great example set by Mr. Osborne and Mr. Dougherty. Let's make sure we have their backs when fringe elements try to punish them for being reasonable and still believing in compromise.
John Reynard November 24, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I completely support this type of centrist consensus building. I think Mr. Osborne has done a great job with this. I will make sure to tell everyone I know he deserves re-election if he seeks another term.
Brian Hite November 26, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Brad Osborne is a man of integrity and a clear thinker. We are well served having Mr Osborne as a County Commissioner. This vote was for all citizens regardless of party affiliation and proves he doesnt let party partisan gimmicks and preconceived agendas influence the right thing to do to help Lehigh County. Thank you Brad.

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