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.