GOP Passes Westchester Budget After Democrats Walk Out Of Hearing

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Westchester Legislator James Maisano (R - New Rochelle) addresses the county legislature Friday. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Westchester Legislator Judy Myers (D - Larchmont) is the chair of the Board of Legislators' Budget and Appropriations committee and moved to recommit the proposed 2013 county budget Friday. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - The Republican minority became the majority on the Westchester County Legislature Friday afternoon and voted to pass its version of the 2013 county budget after all but two Democrats walked out of the chamber.

The Republicans said there was a quorum because Democratic legislators Virginia Perez and Michael Kaplowitz remained in the room.

Both threw support behind the minority report, the Republicans' version of the 2013 budget, which keeps the tax levy flat and restores at least 30 of the 126 jobs cut in County Executive Robert Astorino's proposed budget.

The Democrats contend that it was not an official vote. However, Astorino signed the budget Friday afternoon.

"Today's actions of the Republican legislators, along with that of Legislator Perez and Legislator Kaplowitz were despicable and made a mockery of the legislative process," said legislature Chairman Ken Jenkins, D-Yonkers. 

Democrat Judy Myers, chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, had moved to recommit the budget, which would kick the spending plan back to the budget committee. Then, Jenkins adjourned the meeting.

The Republicans' version of the budget would also lower the parent share of subsidized childcare from 35 percent in the proposed budget to 27 percent. Democrats proposed keeping the share at 20 percent.

“While this compromise doesn’t provide everything we would like to see, it is far more preferable than the alternative of a wholesale veto or a fiscal standoff,” Perez said before the special legislators' meeting Friday.

Her Democratic colleagues said they would rather have no budget at all than pass Astorino or the Republicans' proposals. If a budget cannot be agreed upon, it would revert back to 2012 levels.

“Returning to last year’s budget will be a huge improvement and big step toward fiscal stability, compared to what the County Executive is proposing,” said Peter Harckham, D-Katonah, majority leader for the Democrats.

Thursday, the Democrats released their list of deletions from the budget to offset their added spending. Among the cuts were 57 members of Astorino’s staff, who Democrats said make an average of $97,000.

Astorino criticized the move, as well as using $11 million of the county’s reserve funds to pay for tax certioraris. His proposal would bond $13 million to pay for this year’s tax certioraris.

“There’s no way we sanction laying off 126 experienced professionals… while agreeing to keep 57 political hires on the county payroll," Harckham said. "This is not the kind of budget Westchester taxpayers want.”

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Comments (21)

sam k:

Jenkins has shot himself in the foot and continues the bleeding. So we are going to pay for his lawsuits cause his ego was damaged. Have the vote again, the results are going to be the same. Get over it Ken. You are making a fool of yourself and even worse, Bill Ryan is starting to look a whole lot better then you, so come next year when you want to run, I sure hope the Democrats smarten up a little.

Truth:

Mr. Jenkins & the Democrats embarrased themselves, its wrong to walk out of a meeting and turn out the lights etc. Fight for what you believe and either win or lose, don't run out. As a democrat and a taxpayer I am appalled by their actions. Kudos to Mr. Kaplowitz & Ms. Perez for having backbone. How many "political hires" does the legislature have Mr. Harckham?

KC.Choi:

Regardless of what side of of the issue you're on, the legislation process is in place to hash out issues and then come to some resolution. When the Chairman walks out of his own meeting, that's a lack of leadership and those Legislators that walked out lost their right to vote.

firecommish:

I think it is disgraceful and a slap to the taxpayers for elected officials to walk out of a public meeting regardless of the reason. These people are elected by the taxpayers and are supposed to serve the taxpayers and not themselves.

The TRUTH:

First they walked out in Wisconsin and now Westchester. Democrat legislators act like 10 year olds.

Tonyg:

Mike K works for the people thats he gets elected when he runs thanks Mike. Tony G

EaglesFan1:

Punky, rather than asking the unions for concessions, Jenkins restored over 100 union jobs at a cost of $13 million. The unions don't pay a dime for healthcare and get automatic raises and rich benefits. Jenkins instead decided to dip into the reserve fund ($13 million) to cover his budget gap. Reducing the reserve fund further would kill the county credit rating, making it more expensive to borrow money. This would mean cuts to non-profits, to medicare, to daycare funding, to parks, etc. It would drive businesses away from Westchester and prevent new ones from coming here because of higher taxes. Jenkins isn't stupid. He's sly like a fox. He knows that he can get union support and that's why he decided to screw the taxpayer. It's all about him. He's as slick as they come. Now, he's done. Good riddance.

paulfeiner:

Paul Feiner · Top Commenter · Town Supervisor at Greenburgh · 340 subscribers

I hope that Ken Jenkins will learn from this experience. Members of the Greenburgh Town Board and I have been seeking a meeting with Ken Jenkins to discuss the Westhelp lease. I have written to Ken, Mary Jane Shimsky, Alfreda Williams asking if a meeting could be arranged with all 17 Legislators to discuss the Ferncliff Manor application. Despite numerous letters seeking a meeting, I have not had the courtesy of a response from Mr. Jenkins. I have offered to meet with him and Legislators at Greenburgh Town Hall, at the county office building - anywhere, anytime, any day, any evening, any weekend. This is the first time in my career that elected officials won't meet to discuss an important matter.
Ferncliff provides services to the developmentally disabled. The developmentally disabled deserve a decent place to live. The WESTHELP campus is beautiful. Ferncliff has an excellent reputation. And--they are offering the town of Greenburgh about 3 million dollars more than anyone else over the life of the lease--money that could be used to reduce Greenburgh taxes.
I believe that if Legislator Jenkins put the Ferncliff lease to a vote --a majority of Legislators would authorize the town to enter into the lease with Ferncliff.

TWilliams:

Paul, please tell us the lessons that you learned from your handling of the WestHelp situation.

This is what I know. If you played this thing straight from the beginning, that facility would be generating revenue today. I’m not giving Jenkins and the Dems a pass, but you bear as much responsibility for the lack of cash flow from the property as they do.

GoJo73:

It's about time Astorino got a chance to save us from a bloated county government.
Jenkins has no regard for the tax payers of this county...

punky:

I fail to see how EaglesFan1 or any of the other responders can speak to why either Jenkins, Kaplowitz, or Perez threw their Democratic colleagues under the bus. Perhaps Jenkins and Kaplowitz did so because they knew something we didn't know. But it certainly doesn't sound valid to speak for the reasons unless you were there at the meetings and listened to the arguments. I'm disappointed in Michael Kaplowitz. I've worked very hard for his campaigns over the year s and don't understand what his problem is now. He sure has heck has caused a whole lot of problems for the democrats on the board with whom he supposed to work. It was a democratic party regulars and workers who elected him again and again and to have him desert us now is ..... ?????? well - enough said. Perhaps Mike wants to run for County Executive???? Anything is possible and everything falls back on the shoulders of us - the taxpayers!

Chip N Putt:

Good for Ms. Perez and Mr. Kaplowitz! Mr. Jenkins now going to jump up and down demanding a do over? This is not a game Mr. Jenkins. You are a breathing waste of money and exhibit no leadership skills. Keep on walking, the county does not need your leadership and lack of insight to provide any savings solutions.

EaglesFan1:

The vote was not partisan. I disagree. Two Democrats jumped ship in the effort of compromise--they put the voters first, actually! The others who left were playing politics. Frankly, slick Jenkins was playing politics and I hope that the new Chairman has the people's interest at heart. As a Democrat, I applaud Kaplowitz and Perez for doing the right thing and putting people first. Make no mistake about it: Slick Jenkins was trying to pass this budget to make the County Executive look bad so he could run against him. Jenkins was willing to throw the county into economic chaos for his own political gain. Terrible and disgraceful.

technomom:

"However, Astorino plans to sing it Friday afternoon."

I can't wait to hear Astorino sing the budget!

wjlucas:

Bruce, New York never had a Board of Legislator and County Exec style County Government in Westchester until 1959 or so. I may be off a couple of years. Before that it was run by the Board of Supervisors form all the Towns. There are a lot of things that the County does that the State would have to do.

wjlucas:

Mike, Virginia.... Thank you!!!!

fedupinny:

Kaplowitz and Perez did the right thing are you kidding. Ken Jenkins is looking for a power grab especially as he has his sights set on Astorino's job. But agree county government does nothing for the majority of the citizens of this county other than adding another tax levy to the people who live here and we could do without it. Many many counties and states do not have country government so it's clearly doable.

QB1:

Kudos to Legislators Kaplowitz and Perez for having the guts to stand up to Ken Jenkins and the rest of the Westchester tax and spend Democrats and support Rob Astorino's budget. Jenkins has never seen a tax increase he didn't like and support with his vote and if anyone has forgotten the legacy of the Spano and Jenkins years, just look at your county tax bill.

punky:

Michael, Michael, Michael .... what's happening to you? Where are you hoping to go with acts like this? Better be certain you're not shooting yourself in the foot and certainly not the hand that feeds you! !

Bruce Connors:

They should all walk out! We don't need any county government. It's simply a waste of money.

Wake up New York State, Connecticut did.

Green Growler:

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