Scranton Times-Tribune: GOP auditor general candidate cites skills, experience

“In his seven years in public office, first as the mayor of Bangor and now as the Northampton County executive, Republican John Brown said he has sought long-term solutions to problems through a combination of resolve and the skills he learned and honed in the private sector.

He promises to bring the same approach to state government if he is elected auditor general on Nov. 8.

In a meeting Tuesday with The Times-Tribune editorial board, Mr. Brown said his background as a senior manager in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries and his current position overseeing a county with 2,200 employees and a $360 million annual budget have prepared him to serve as Pennsylvania’s fiscal watchdog.

“The fundamentals are the same in my mind,” said Mr. Brown, who faces incumbent Democrat Eugene DePasquale in the general election. “It’s still a business. We have personnel issues. We have cash-flow issues, and then you have problem-solving you have to do.”

Now in his third year as Northampton County’s top administrator, Mr. Brown said he has eliminated over $40 million in waste, reduced health care costs by 20 percent and tripled the county’s financial reserves. Reforms he introduced have cut operating losses at the county nursing home by $5.3 million.

He said government’s usual response to a problem it cannot fix is throw more money or more people at it without “really identifying what the core issue is.”

In contrast, Mr. Brown said, what he has done at both the borough and county level — and what he would do at the state level as auditor general — is evaluate systems to determine what is driving a particular problem so there can be a “sustainable solution.”

“You have to be willing and able to reach into that system and begin to turn the knobs and redirect that flow as to what the expectations are, raising the bar and having the resolve to stand in the heat,” he said.

Without identifying Mr. DePasquale by name, he said the incumbent touts having saved commonwealth taxpayers $160 million to $180 million over four years by ferreting out waste. That works out to no more than $45 million a year in a state with an annual budget of more than $30 billion, he said.

“He is spending $60 million to do that if you look at his total cost of operating his office. … It seems absurd that you would continue to operate an office where you can’t at least cover your own operating costs,” Mr. Brown said. “Looking at $30 billion, why can’t we find more waste? It’s there, absolutely.”

Next month’s winner will serve a four-year term as auditor general. The position pays $158,764 annually.

To read the entire article by David Singleton, please click here.