LEHIGH COUNTY news
Lehigh County Executive Bill Hansell issued a line-item veto on Lehigh County's proposed budget Nov. 1 effectively issuing a $3.5 million cut in spending to accompany proposed tax credits.
"I am using the veto surgically to correct a problem rather than using it as a blunt instrument to simply say 'no' and force an arbitrary choice. While this veto will be somewhat complicated, its objectives are simple and clear," Hansell said at a press conference Nov. 1 announcing the line-item veto.
Hansell said a choice to uphold this veto will grant county taxpayers a tax rate reduction of $3 million in 2013 and subsequent years. He said the $5 million in cuts proposed toward county personnel will be eliminated and replaced with $3.5 million in "real cuts" to non-personnel expenditures.
The one-time expiring tax credit of $3.5 million will still be a part of the budget if the veto is upheld by commissioners. The $44 reduction for the average taxpayer in real estate taxes for 2013 will remain in effect after the veto.
Hansell said he chose to veto this budget partially because the $5 million in cuts to general employee compensation went against the recommendations and advice of "every professional manager, elected and appointed, in Lehigh County." He said the cuts were not supported by the county's district attorney, president judge, criminal justice advisory board or himself.
"Rather than work with us to find cuts that we might have worked toward as a team, this amendment simply removes $5 million from next year's general employee compensation line item, which serves only to demoralize our staff with threats of furloughs, layoffs and terminations," Hansell said. "This is an unnecessary threat made against a workforce that is already well under the number of employees that Lehigh County had 20 years ago."
He said, in his estimation, this budget would have increased the county's structural deficit to $12.8 million and would have made a future tax increase inevitable to sustain county operations.
Hansell explained his veto by telling the public he believes no plan to cut taxes will work unless there is a realistic plan to cut spending along with it.
"While this agreement isn't as eye-catching as an edict to cut government workers salaries by $5 million with no forethought, it is an agreement that we can all live with, it represents a real tax cut accompanied by even larger reductions in expenditures and it's how government really works after the time comes to take down the campaign yard signs and get to the business of governing," Hansell said.