Opinion: Commentary: Friedson Figures: Ensuring A Sustainable Fiscal Future

Opinion: Commentary: Friedson Figures: Ensuring A Sustainable Fiscal Future

These first nine months as District 1’s County Councilmember have been a tremendous thrill. My primary focus continues to be providing responsive and effective constituent service, which is why I’ve focused on showing up wherever and whenever I can to hear directly from you.

Most often, we hear about the everyday quality of life issues which are the lifeblood of local government. Maintaining that high quality of life requires that we look both outward, by growing a thriving private-sector economy, and inward, with fiscally responsible budgeting.

Looking outward, we need to grow the tax base so we don’t continuously resort to raising tax rates. The first step to improving our economic competitiveness is to view employers as partners, not just revenue generators. That’s why my top legislative priority this year is a bill to require an Economic Impact Statement on all county legislation. Bill 10-19 ensures that we consider the full impact of everything we do at the Council, not just on the County budget, but on the budgets of Montgomery County families and businesses. We have far more to do to enhance our business reputation. This bill’s unanimous passage represents an important step in the right direction.

Looking inward, I’ve been able to use my background in fiscal and economic policy and restructuring public agencies at the state level to hit the ground running, asking tough questions, and pushing for increased transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility.

That’s why I spoke out during the budget process for long-term sustainability, including my strong opposition to balancing the budget with an $89.6 million diversion from the public employee health benefits trust. Using one-time savings to fund ongoing expenses is the definition of unsustainable. Fulfilling health care obligations for our public servants isn’t an option, it’s an obligation, and the $302.8 million in aggregate diversions over the past five years will only cost us significantly more later. While we lost the vote during this budget season, the public conversation led to a strong commitment from my colleagues to look at strengthening our fiscal policies moving forward.

Fiscal responsibility shouldn’t be about only how much is spent, but also how it’s being spent. I’m working on redoubling the Council’s commitment to fiscal oversight with Council President Nancy Navarro and Council Vice President Sidney Katz to introduce legislation that would require a regular financial review by the Inspector General of all county departments. The cost of the bill in public dollars pales in comparison to its importance in maintaining public trust, ensuring your tax dollars are being invested efficiently, effectively, and appropriately. I am optimistic we will pass the bill this fall.

We undoubtedly face significant fiscal challenges, but we also have tremendous assets to match them. After these first nine months on the Council, I am convinced more than ever that we have all the resources we need to ensure a sustainable future. Together, we can turn that potential into progress.