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Legislator Kevin Hardwick, (R- Tonawanda)
County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the move could put his entire budget out of balance.
He says it uses one-shot budget tricks, and he warns that the money would have to eventually come from somewhere.
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The Republican Led Coalition
POLONCARZ STATEMENT ON APPROVAL OF 2013 ERIE COUNTY BUDGET
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz issued the following statement in response to the Erie County Legislature voting 6 to 5 to approve the 2013 Erie County Budget as amended.
" Good evening and thank you for joining me.
I find it interesting that as the Legislature began its session today, a storm rolled in from over the horizon. Coincidence perhaps, but, as you know, 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.
First, I would like to thank the 5 legislators who stood for a fair and balanced budget and were willing to make the difficult decisions necessary for the good of our community. Legislators Grant, Hogues, Marinelli, Mazur and McCracken.
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.
First, I will veto every single dollar of additional spending added—additional spending that we have no new revenues to pay for.
Next, I will begin combing through every line of discretionary spending to find the real cuts to discretionary spending the Legislature was unwilling to make on their own.
Although they wouldn’t stand up and do the right thing today, I hope that as I take these and other corrective measures to fix the issues the 6 members created, to balance this budget, they will do the right thing then.
By their hand, decisions have become more difficult today, tomorrow and every day in foreseeable future.
I haven’t backed down from a challenge or making the hard decisions, and I am not going to start now.
Thank you and I will take any questions you may have.
From The Democrats Who Voted In Favor of the Budget:
Today’s actions by the Republican minority caucus in the Erie County Legislature are driving Erie County towards our own “Fiscal Cliff.” As we see in Washington, the Republicans are good at saying “no” and creating political chaos, but they are failures when it comes to governing responsibly and making tough choices.
Republican county legislators have returned to the sham budgeting and one-shot gimmicks that led to the Red/Green County budget crisis in 2004. Their amendments to the 2013 Proposed County Budget are fiscally irresponsible and could cause the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority to return to a “hard” control period. In their zealous quest to embarrass the County Executive by artificially creating a budget crisis, they are jeopardizing our community’s long-term fiscal health.
We will continue to work hard for the progressive values that our Democratic leaders stood for today.
And The Republican-Led Coalition that Voted Against It:
A majority of the Erie County Legislature announces that through strategic budget amendments, County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s proposed tax increase has been eliminated in the adopted 2013 budget. During the Dec. 4, 2012 budget vote, Republicans Kevin Hardwick, John Mills and Edward Rath; Democrat Tom Loughran; Conservative Joseph Lorigo and Independent Lynne Dixon proposed and confirmed a budget amendment package to reduce the $1.4 billion budget by approximately $8.5 million, the amount slated to be raised by a 3.4 percent property tax hike.
“We are happy to inform the residents of Erie County that after a very long process, a majority of the Legislature consisting of three Republicans, one Democrat, one Conservative and one Independent, came together to protect the taxpayers of Erie County. The 2013 budget has officially been adopted without a tax increase. The services that residents rely on are still funded appropriately and business will continue in Erie County.”
--Erie County Legislature Minority Caucus
The Minority Caucus concluded its statement by reprimanding the recent actions of the County Executive who threatened the taxpayers with cuts to programs and services in 2013. It is important to note that the County Executive does not possess the authority to take such action without approval of the Legislature and the Minority Caucus will not give credibility to idle threats and will not support any gimmickry by the administration that will impact programs and services.
“Yesterday, the County Executive made threatening statements to the taxpayers about the legacy of our proposed cuts. His accusations that residents will have to deal with cuts to libraries, culturals and the programs and services they expect and deserve are meritless and amount to nothing more than a scare tactic. Our cuts were made in areas that were overestimated and inflated, and the end result is simply that the taxpayers will not pay more and the County Executive will have to manage better. His threats also ignore the delineated powers the Erie County Charter gives to the Legislature, specifically power to approve budget transfers throughout the year. Simply put, unless the entire Democratic Majority votes to transfer money away from libraries, culturals, services and programs, the cuts will not happen. This caucus is firm in its position that what we funded should be funded, and what we cut should be cut.”
- Erie County Legislature Minority Caucus
Acknowledging that the County Executive’s actions have caused some concern in the community, the Minority Caucus reminds taxpayers that Erie County currently maintains an $83 million cash surplus that allows it to manage any unforeseen emergencies.