Money, Money, Money
1. Anyone else getting the sense that the Cuomo billion for Buffalo is just a new way for our local Very Important People® to further enrich themselves and their friends on the public teat? We’re attracting a business from Albany?! What does Albany have to say about that?
2. Congratulations to the Republicans + Tom Loughran for passing a 2013 county budget with an $8.5 million shortfall. That’s just the kind of fiscal conservatism we need in Erie County. This is precisely the sort of “parental supervision” that the control board was put in place to provide, right? Oh, wait – you say the control board also has problems with what the Republicans and Tom Loughran did? Wait, you say that it’s somewhat suspicious that Amherst’s Democrat joined the Republicans and one of the few increases in the budget is for something called the “Amherst Symphony Orchestra”?
While Democratic legislators tend to fight for things like funding the culturals and social services, Republicans tend to like things like road maintenance – things that the towns should be handling, but got the county to subsidize for them over the years. So now, with the budget as passed, the county executive needs to find $8.5 million worth of things to cut beyond what the legislature Republicans allegedly “cut” to eliminate the extra $18 additional bucks per year a $100,000 house in Erie County would have paid to help maintain a healthy cultural scene, and our roads.
I’m also especially disgusted by the Legislature’s right wing refusing to negotiate or compromise with the Democrats. As I pointed out yesterday, young Joe Lorigo should be held up for especial scorn for his ignorant, disingenuous statement about how hard people are fighting to raise taxes; Chris Collins went to court to raise them higher in 2008.
Someday, Erie County will be free of the despicable stranglehold the Lorigo family holds over its politics. They are neither conservative nor proponents of good government, and they would rather promote an unbalanced budget than compromise and otherwise govern.
The Comptroller’s office said Poloncarz’s budget is sound and reasonable. The control board conducted its own independent analysis, and found that Poloncarz’s budget is balanced and reasonable, and its board unanimously approved the budget and Four Year Financial Plan on October 26th. By contrast, the control board’s chairman publicly expressed the control board’s concerns that the Republican amendments are unbalanced and unreasonable when he testified at the Legislature on December 3rd.
Here’s what Poloncarz said last night:
…the Legislature has voted 6 to 5 to approve a 2013 Erie County Budget with the set of amendments proposed by Legislators Mills, Dixon, Hardwick, Lorigo, Rath and Loughran that we have talked so much about over the past week…
…Although I have earnestly kept the lines of communication open throughout this process in hopes of reaching a compromise that ensures the fiscally stability of the county and protects the programs and services demanded by the public, none could be reached.
In fact, earlier this afternoon, I proposed a package to Legislator Hardwick that would meet them half-way. It cut the proposed property tax in half—to about $4 million, or 9 cents per $1,000—along with a set of difficult, yet real, cuts in discretionary spending to make up the rest. I was told that it doesn’t go far enough to meet their definition of compromise.
So here we are. Although the people spoke when they elected me as their County Executive, their voices have been muted by this Legislature. And while the legislature has a role in the process, all I can say is that I am disappointed in its action.
I am disappointed that a majority did not agree that after closing more than $20 million of a $33 million gap with targeted cuts across the board, and a responsible use of fund balance—in order to ensure the quality of life programs and services mandated by the people remain, we needed to propose a small property tax increase to find that last $8 million.
I am disappointed that when it was clear they would not accept any property tax increase—no matter what—instead of proposing real cuts in spending to offset the loss of revenue, they, instead, chose gimmicks that look good on paper but do nothing to reduce our obligated costs—not a single dollar.
Throughout this process, no matter how many times they said it, their math simply doesn’t add up. And their refusal to present a single piece of data in support of their claims shows me they knew that as well. It sounds eerily similar to the debate we recently witnessed on the national level: it all comes down to arithmetic and their numbers don’t add up.
I can accept that we have different opinions on how we should spend our finite resources. But, I cannot accept a difference in facts on what we have to pay and what we don’t.
Instead of doing what is right, though difficult, they chose to do what was easy and wrong.
They chose to adopt a budget that is not balanced—from day one—and a Four Year Plan that isn’t balanced today or in the future.
Throughout this process, we’ve fixated on whether or not there is or is not a property tax increase, on this number or that number but what we need to really ask ourselves about this budget is what have we accomplished?
That’s frankly, what I am most disappointed about of all. I am disappointed that instead of a budget that builds upon the many great successes we have had already this year, we now have a budget that takes us a step backwards towards the fiscal crises of years past.
Instead of moving forward on the many exciting economic development initiatives we have worked so hard on—and are beginning to come to fruition—we will be forced to shift that focus on correcting the structural issues within this budget and Four Year Plan in an attempt to stave off a hard control board.
This was entirely avoidable. All it would have taken was one more Legislator to stand up and show the kind of leadership this community deserves from them.
In the coming days and weeks, I will begin to do everything in my power to rebalance this budget and the corresponding Four Year Plan.
The only thing missing from this scenario is a deep inhale of one-shot tobacco money. Happily, Poloncarz will veto every spending increase that the right wing put in place. Yes – increase; almost $200,000 worth. They didn’t just make phony cuts on paper, they also increased spending on some items. Because protect the taxpayer.
More despicable to me than bullshitting their way into an unbalanced budget is the legislature’s right wing refusing to compromise with Poloncarz. Compromise, as any political science professor will tell you, is what government is all about. Or supposed to, anyway.
Of course, most local media are simply parroting the notion that your property taxes won’t be going up. Let’s don’t discuss what else is going on. Just keep it stupid and incomplete – the way you perceive your audience to be.
Welcome back, Failboat. We missed you.