John Menke would impose hiring freezes for the next two years to trim the costs of Montgomery County's government.
Royce Hanson, however, calls that approach "amateurish." Instead, he would institute a new formula to measure developmentalproductivity, then decide annually if each department's performance measures up to its cost.
Charles Gilchrist takes a slightly different tack. He would streamline the functions of "too many" overlapping agencies and reduce the number of employes by attrition.
In this year of taxpayer revolts, the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for Montgomery County executive are busily engaging in one-upmanship over who is more fiscally prudent.
While all have proposals and all say their opponents' solutions are off-target, each talks in fairly general terms about his approach to holding down the county budget.
"I am the only candidate in this race who has any - any - management experience, and it's important if we are going to attack taxes and government spending," said Hanson, chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board.
The answer to spending restraints lies with an executive "willing to make tough budget decisions," said Gilchrist, a state senator who has served on legislative budget committees and considers himself an expert in tax law.
"Zero-based budgeting does no good if you don't have basic constraints by policy," said Menke, a County Council member. "Tools to reduce costs don't substitute for overall policies to guide us."
Menke makes it clear that there is one overall policy he would establish no collective bargaining for employes. Gilchrist and Hanson, however, do not oppose collective bargaining.
"If the executive is willing to take tough positions and employes are serious about fiscal control, then they can sit across the table and provide reasonable fiscal constraints," said Gilchrist.
A broader issue, Gilchrist said, is the county's reliance on property tax revenues. The county government, he believes, should pressure state officials to consider legislation that would give the county more revenue from other sources - such as the state income tax - and take some of the burden off property taxpayers.
Some of the county's property owners have already mounted a petition drive to put a measure on the November ballot that would - among other things - roll back the county's property tax.
Candidate Hanson has called such initiaves by The Montgomery County Taxpayers League concepts that would only "frustrate real tax reform."
"They do not touch on the problems of proper spending priorities, productivity or efficiency," he said."There is no gimmick or anacea that will make government efficient."
His 11-point budget program proposes that budget ceilings be based on complex formulas taking into account the rate of inflation, population growth and the expansion of the county's economic capacity. Governmental departments should submit zero-based budgets and be subject to a quarterly review of their expenditures as compared to their performance.
The "pay-as-you-go" financing of public works suggested by Menke in a proposed charter amendment is "bad economics, bad fiscal policy and in general, bad thinking," Hanson said. Capital projects should, however, be evaluated against their operating costs, he said.
One way to reduce residential property tax burdens is to shift transportation financing from property taxes to a gasoline tax or higher transit fares, Hanson said.
Menke's 10-point fiscal program includes two charter amendments which Menke, a County Council member, has already proposed.
One would limit the percentage increases in the operating budget to the percentage rise in the cost of living in the metropolitan area. The other would require that any capital improvement project over $5 million or any such service determined by the council to be one of "sufficient public importance" would have to be individually authorized by a separate ordinance.
Other ways to trim the budget would include engaging the public in budget preparation through an advisory committee, imposing a hiring freeze on half the unfilled positions in this year's budget and reevaluating planned projects to determine which ones could be deleted or delayed in any given year, Menke said.