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December 11, 2017

Learning from Montgomery County’s Mistakes

Jason Miller

In case you missed it this last week in The Washington Post, Montgomery County is having a crisis with a $120 million shortfall in their fiscal budget. I know… you’re shocked…


How could the heady days of carefree self-indulgent binge spending in Montgomery County create this mess? Right! I mean, you and I know that local government is the primary economic engine that drives the growth and prosperity for all residents in the county? Right!


Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett gave county employees a 13.5% pay increase in 2016 under the promise that these people would spend their money in the county; and, as such, the money goes back to the county and create jobs and tax revenue. Right? A model of Keynesian government investment.


That’s what Executive Leggett said. Just like in 2008 when he said the 2008 Montgomery County millionaires’ tax would create a robust model of diversified economic justice paid in large part by the local 1% tax. Remember?


The Washington Post story by Rachel Siegel (December 4) did its best to explain the derelict ineptitude of a fiscally clumsy Montgomery County Council under current Council President Rodger Berliner.


Mr. Berliner told the Post that he was in shock because the “economy is pretty strong, we have low unemployment.” Mr. Berliner also added that “our high-income taxpayers would have more dollars, not less. That assumption turned out to be wrong.”


Montgomery County Council Democrats are finally starting to understand that money projections aren’t always correct. The chickens were counted before they’re hatched, and the outcome looks bleak.


Now non-council Democrats, who are running for council seats, smell blood in the water. Several would be council Democrats are trying to out progressive each other.


Meanwhile, incumbent Democrats are reeling as a 2% budget cut to all departments in the county government are being drawn from the current $5.5 billion.


Every pet project, and every pending campaign promise, hangs in the balance as Democrats scramble to save the money that was projected to be spent.


The 2008 Montgomery County millionaires’ tax was supposed to generate millions upon millions of dollars, and county officials started spending money like the county had already collected its projected millionaires’ tax.


Only when the county realized that the local millionaires were moving into Virginia did it start to rein in its spending and admit that the so-called millionaires’ tax cost the county more money than it generated.


Sometimes county officials forget that it’s not a business unto itself. Taxpayers do not work in the private sector to financially fund local governments. Taxpayers are stockholders who are mandated by law to invest in their county every year. A county is responsible for being run effectively and funded efficiently.


The Montgomery County Council president has seemed to have forgotten that government cannot tax at a level that cannibalizes its tax base.


It is up to the residents to look at what happened in their county last week and cringe. They need to learn from the embarrassing mistake that their leaders made and revisit the financial commitment to the taxpayers.


In short, they need to learn from their own mistakes.


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