GOP Legislators Challenge Democratic Supermajority to Provide a Fair, Bipartisan, Open and Transparent Budget Process

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The most important duty the Board of Legislators will undertake this year is the delivery of a responsible county budget.  In these very difficult financial times this is a task that will require the dedication and cooperation of every single Legislator both Republican and Democrat.  This can only be accomplished if the Democrat supermajority works with the Republican lawmakers, in a positive manner, on a budget process that is inclusive of the public and press and mandates that all decisions are made in a fair, open and transparent way.  These critical qualities have been conspicuously absent from the budget process in recent years.

The Democrat supermajority’s approach in prior years has been to hold the required budget committee meetings and hearings in public, and then withdraw to the secrecy of the Democratic caucus, where the Republican legislators, the public and press were locked out.  Last year, even the County Executive’s office was locked out of these private meetings and not allowed to offer any input on important decisions that would affect the administration.  This was followed by the Republican legislators receiving the supermajority’s budget changes just 20 MINUTES before being required to vote on the budget.  Minority Leader James Maisano said, “The taxpayers of Westchester don’t support this type of secrecy and closed government when it comes to their budget.  It is outrageous that the public and press were locked out of the Democrat caucus meetings, where most of the real decisions on the budget were made.  This budget year we request that the Democrat supermajority release their changes to the budget no less than 24 hours prior to the budget vote.”  Maisano added, “We are facing an extremely difficult budget, and I hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle make this a true partnership and ensure that fair, open and transparent procedures are followed at all times for this budget.”  Maisano concluded, “on Tuesday November 8th.  Westchester voters made it clear that they expect more cooperation and accomplishment from their elected officials.  Partisan games and politicizing of our legislative duties is unacceptable.  It is time to work together for the good of Westchester’s taxpayers.”

While the Republican caucus hopes that the Democrats will conduct their budget deliberations in a fair, open and bipartisan manner, the Chairman’s recent unilateral decision to change the date for the budget vote from December 12th to December 8th is very troubling.  December 12 has been scheduled for about 11 months now.  This date change was made to allow the Democrats more time to override the vetoes they anticipate coming down from the County Executive.  The Republican caucus urges the Democrats to work WITH the County Executive in a bipartisan effort NOW to reach compromises on the various budget disputes BEFORE they propose their final plan, which needs at least a 24 hour review by the public, press, Republican legislators and County Executive.

About John G. Testa

Former District 1 County Legislator, John G. Testa is served five terms at the Westchester County Board of Legislators, spending the last 3 terms as BOL Minority Leader. John G. Testa is a lifelong resident of Peekskill who first entered elected public service as a member of the Peekskill Common Council in 1998 and then served three terms as Mayor. He previously served on the Conservation and Parks Advisory Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. John became an elected official eager to improve the City in which his family has lived for more than a century and quickly earned a reputation as a strong, independent, nonpartisan voice for fiscal responsibility. John received a BS degree in Technology from SUNY Oswego, where his academic achievements gained him induction into Epsilon Pi Tau, the International Honorary Fraternity of Technology. He earned his MS degree in Technology from the City College of New York. He began his teaching career in 1980 at Peekskill High School, his alma mater, as an instructor in Technology and Social Studies, retiring in 2013 after 33 years teaching. John has been a leader in support for the Arts Community in Westchester. He presided over the construction of the Peekskill Art Lofts, the establishment of the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, and the complete restoration of the Paramount Center for the Arts, originally a 1930’s movie house and helped bring critical funding to many Westchester programs. Legislator Testa received the “Advancing the Arts in Westchester Award” by ArtsWestchester. John has a been a leader on environmental issues for two decades and has a long record of initiatives he has supported and spearheaded. His active involvement in developing and promoting environmentally friendly policies began as mayor and continued throughout his time as Westchester County Legislator. His efforts consistently earned John the endorsement of the NY League of Conservation Voters. John’s most recognizable accomplishment has been his promotion and preservation of local history and historic landmarks, bringing an unprecedented focus on the region’s rich history, and its legacy of historic Victorian architecture. His roots in historical preservation stem from his experience as a Revolutionary War re-enactor and member of The Brigade of the American Revolution for 50 years. John was instrumental in securing the preservation of the Lincoln Depot, now the Lincoln Depot Museum, where he now serves as President. The museum was recognized in 2015 as one of The Best Museums in Westchester. He also secured the preservation of historic Fort Hill as parkland, a 40-acre parcel that was originally a Revolutionary War encampment site. Under his leadership, the United States Dept. of the Interior declared Peekskill a “Preserve America Community.” John was able to establish a record number of National Register designations of local structures, including the first Downtown and Neighborhood Historic Districts and supported the preservation of the historic Miller House in North White Plains. In 2017 John was named a “Champion of History” by the Lincoln Society in Peekskill. John and his wife of 37 years, Nancy, live in Peekskill and have two adult children, John, Jr. (fiancé Courtney Kelly) and Katy (husband Mike Mearon). John and Nancy recently welcomed the arrival of their first grandchild, Lacey Mae, in 2019.
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