Castor, other GOP county leaders calm as fiscal cliff nears

    Several Democratic mayors across Pennsylvania are worried their cities won’t be able to absorb the automatic spending cuts that would result from going over the fiscal cliff.

    But some Republican county commissioners don’t appear nearly as concerned.

    The relative nonchalance may be a matter of how the money flows.

    Bruce Castor, a Republican Montgomery County commissioner, says counties don’t receive funding directly from the federal government. So, he says, it’s hard to know how automatic spending cuts would affect each county, because any federal dollars are first passed through state agencies.

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    “As a general rule, when there are cuts on pass-through programs, we simply cut those services because the counties are not equipped to pay for them using our property tax formula,” Castor said.

    Furthermore, Castor says he’s not convinced the president’s proposal to raise tax rates on the top 2 percent of wage earners is wise. Raiding taxes on anyone now, he says, is a bad idea.

    Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, as well as the mayors of Allentown, Reading, and York, agree with the president’s position that raising revenue is crucial to a deal.

    They say if no deal is reached, the scheduled automatic spending cuts, especially to education, would be almost impossible to absorb.

    The GOP’s relative lack of urgency may also reflect some partisan ideology.

    Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin, a Republican, suggests counties should be able to provide core services with less funding.

    But in the proposed 2013 county budget, Martin and his colleagues are calling for a nearly 10 percent tax hike.

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