White Plains, NY – Republican County Legislators criticized a “flawed process that led to a flawed product,” and blasted their Democratic counterparts for their strict adherence to party line votes to override virtually all of County Executive Rob Astorino’s vetoes.
“Too much of the budget process was done behind the closed doors of the Democratic caucus, and result was 247 vetoes and a blown opportunity to dramatically reform the county government. They made questionable decisions outside the review of the media, public and Republican legislators. Unfortunately, the Democrat majority voted to override several of the County Executive’s efforts to create a more taxpayer friendly budget, downsize the county government and create savings for the taxpayers of the county with highest property taxes in the nation,” said Minority Leader Jim Maisano (R, New Rochelle).
One troubling override seeks to block a cost-saving plan where non profits will take over the administration of the Section 8 housing program. Minority Whip Gordon A. Burrows (R, Yonkers/Bronxville) said, “This vote to continue Westchester County’s operation of the Section 8 Program is just plain bad policy, bad fiscal policy and bad precedent. This reform would have saved Westchester taxpayers $500,000, reduced the size of our government and the Section 8 program would have been well run by the non profit agencies that took it over.
The Republican legislators were shocked that the Democrats voted to override the veto of a $1.3 Million Albany-style slush fund on a party line vote. Legislator Bernice Spreckman (R, Yonkers) stated, “these lines in the budget are anonymous and undedicated. In prior years, grants were given out from the slush fund without any public review or competitive process. The slush fund operation has never been open and transparent. In this rough economy, it is an outrage that the Democrats voted to protect their slush fund, while we had to make so many other tough cuts to the budget.”
In another instance of bad fiscal policy, Democratic legislators voted unanimously 12-5 to override the County Executive’s veto and take $3.5 Million from the County’s current year’s fund balance.
“Raiding the current year’s fund balance is against all accepted municipal finance practices,” said Legislator John G. Testa (R, Peekskill). 2010 is not even complete, the surplus has not even been audited, and yet our Democratic colleagues are already spending the money. My concern is that this unprecedented action could risk the County’s AAA bond rating.”
Dozens of employee positions that had been cut in the County Executive’s budget as part of the continuing effort to downsize government and save tax dollars were restored by the Democrat majority. “This is a case of the same old bad fiscal decisions that have outraged taxpayers for years,” said Legislator Sheila Marcotte (R, Eastchester). “Despite the overrides, we stand with the taxpayers and will continue to work diligently to reduce the size of government, reduce spending and reduce taxes. The Democrat’s votes today show they are not listening to the clear voices of our taxpayers.
In a controversial vote, the Democrats pushed through a measure to boost the amount of projected sales tax revenue by an additional $2,285,000 – a calculation that reflects a risky guess that sales tax revenue will grow at a higher rate (4.5%), than the 4% rate originally proposed. Minority Leader Maisano added, “In light of the bad economy, we should have been careful and not inflated the sales tax revenue. If the revenues don’t meet the overly optimistic prediction, we will have a hole in out 2011 budget.”
The Republicans were pleased that there strong advocacy to block the expenditure of $500,000 to create a law department at Board of Legislators led to its defeat.