There are some elected officials in Pennsylvania that think they have come up with a way to save money although it would require changing the Commonwealth’s constitution to make it happen. The proposed Pennsylvania House Bill 2431 would eliminate city, township and borough governments . . . in other words; the bill suggests collapsing local government to create county-run control.
Those behind the bill believe that state-level legislation to consolidate local government is a way to reduce the overall cost of government. Forced municipal consolidation would radically change the governing of Pennsylvania. Potentially all local governments would be wiped out in one fell swoop and the municipal responsibilities would move to the county level. The bill would create a committee to condense the townships and boroughs and have local control pass to the county level. From snow removal to providing water and sewer, from law enforcement to land use decisions — these now local services would become regionally provided for by a centralized, bigger government . . . the county!
Under the current system, our local government is local. We have our elected officials working and living in the area they serve. With this proposed legislation, resident questions and concerns would pass to the larger county government. For instance, if a resident or a neighborhood has a zoning issue (Mt. Pleasant community as a recent example) you would be reliant on the county officials to respond. Under this proposed bill, the residents would contact an unknown official who could be on the other side of the county. How much would the county official really understand about a localized community issue? Stands to reason that depending on where the resident is in any given county, there could be a complete disconnect and lack of understanding of the specific issue. Look at Chester County and our diversity . . . one could imagine the vast difference of issues of residents in the dense, more developed areas of northern Chester County and the rural, less-populated areas of southern Chester County. In making decisions, would the county officials be able to offer even handedness of all resident issues. Not sure that would be possible.
However, shared services between local municipalities should be heralded as a form of cost cutting. Based on the specific needs of given local governments in the Commonwealth, municipalities should encourage the consolidation of services where fiscally responsible. Depending on the township or borough, the sharing of services could take different direction . . . health care plans, snow and trash removal, law enforcement, etc. Individual local governments and their elected officials should take up this cost-saving cause . . . but not forced consolidation by state mandate.
Although I am not aware that our elected township officials have responded specifically to the proposed legislation, many townships in Chester County have been very vocal about passing a resolution to oppose House Bill 2431. The Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors is supporting resolution to oppose the proposed legislation. The road for House Bill 2431 is a long one . . . if it were to get House and Senate approval; it would still require the support of the majority of Pennsylvania residents. Although not likely to be supported by the residents, the bill would then go back to the legislation to be shaped in to a specific law with guidelines.
This is one of those proposed legislative changes that is unlikely to go very far; although it would be fascinating to know how much money would be saved if you did away with all local government in Pennsylvania.
However, at the end of the day, I think House Bill 2431 makes the case that ‘bigger government’ is not necessarily ‘better government’.