Republican Congressman Lee Terry and Democratic challenger John Ewing clashed Monday over how Ewing managed his office budget as Douglas County treasurer. Terry accused Ewing of overspending his budget in each of the past six years.
But Ewing said Terry is misrepresenting the facts. He said budget numbers actually show that his office spent less than allocated.
“Lee Terry's press conference this morning and subsequent ad was either a direct attempt to mislead the voters of the 2nd District or another indication that he is so incompetent on fiscal issues, he can't even read a simple budget,” Ewing said in a statement.
Ewing has made his handling of the county treasurer's budget a central part of his campaign, saying that he saved $1.2 million for taxpayers by cutting about 20 positions.
Terry contends that Ewing's spending exceeded the budgets set by the Douglas County Board each year, amounting to a total of $700,000 in overspending over six years.
“We can't afford to send John Ewing to Washington,” Terry said at a press conference to announce his latest television campaign ad.
Clare Duda, a Republican County Board member who attended Terry's press conference, said Ewing's spending caused problems for the County Board. He said the board was trying to cut the budget to avoid the need for higher property taxes.
“John Ewing is a friend, a good guy. I have great respect for him,” Duda said. “But he is not a fiscal conservative.”
County budgets show, however, that after the board made midyear budget hikes, Ewing came in under the final target each year. In all, Ewing spent a total of about $155,000 less than the revised budgets.
County Board member Mike Boyle, a Democrat, said the county board passes budgets before it negotiates annual raises for county employees.
After the board has settled salary costs, it amends the budget to reflect that extra cost to the county, Boyle said. Ewing and other elected officials have no control over the raises, he said.
Boyle praised Ewing's management of the Treasurer's Office.
“He's working to get expenses under control and he's brought great innovations to the office,” Boyle said.
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