FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 4, 2013
Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)
Astorino’s “Crack Cocaine” Remark is Both Inappropriate and Hypocritical, Say Two Democratic BOL Leaders
White Plains, NY – Two Democratic leaders on the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) harshly criticized County Executive Rob Astorino this morning for referring to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed pension payment plan as “crack cocaine,” saying the remark was both inappropriate and hypocritical.
BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) and Legislator Judy Myers, (D-Larchmont), chair of the BOL’s Budget & Appropriations Committee, also said Astorino should explain why he thinks his tasteless drug use analogy is a suitable analysis for the Governor’s financial proposal.
“Residents and business owners here in New York and across our great nation deserve a political discourse that is respectful, intelligent and beneficial to understanding the issues,” said Jenkins. “The wildly inflammatory comment made by the County Executive was totally inappropriate in the context of what should be a measured discussion of a proposal’s merits. In this case, I question the motivation and need for such a scurrilous remark, especially from an elected official.”
Governor Cuomo’s proposed pension payment plan would allow local governments to level their costs at 12.5% over the next 25 years, thanks to anticipated savings from the new Tier VI pension slot that will offer less generous benefits to future hired employees. Presently, municipalities and school districts are suffering under soaring pension costs.
Regarding this proposed plan, Astorino said, “It’s like crack cocaine. You’re going to get a quick high today, but you’re going to end up in the gutter.”
“I am surprised and dismayed by County Executive Astorino’s comment for lots of reason, but what bothers me the most is that it is so hypocritical,” said Myers. “At the end of the day, the County Executive’s decision to bond for thirteen million dollars of tax certioraris when the County clearly had the financial ability to pay for them is no different. In fact, it is even worse. Talk about kicking the can down the road!”
The 2013 County Budget proposed by the BOL Democratic caucus would have resulted in the same zero percent increase in the County tax levy as the Republican-led budget without borrowing for tax certioraris and pension costs—a more fiscally sound plan, most agree. In December 2012, Jenkins noted, “What really protects the County’s triple A bond rating is fiscal prudence, smart spending and cost cutting to keep taxes down while maintaining a healthy tax base and providing quality services that Westchester residents deserve.”
In 2011, as part of the NYS Legislative package, Jenkins proposed that Westchester be allowed to borrow at the County rate for the 2010 Early Retirement Incentive (ERI) obligation. This request by Jenkins was due to the fact the County bond rates were lower than the State’s, and therefore saving the County real dollars over the bonding period. Jenkins worked with several State legislators, including Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, to get a bill allowing for the County do its own ERI bonding. Senator Jeff Klein and New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario were instrumental also in getting this legislation passed, as the bill had been stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“We have to find creative solutions and work with our partners at every level to enact legislative changes,” said Jenkins. “The State Legislature was able to get this done in one of the final days before the end of session, and Governor Cuomo signed the legislation because it was right for Westchester.”
Meanwhile, in 2011 the Astorino Administration spent over $18 million in unappropriated funds to pay the County pension bill in full. This action by the Administration dramatically decreased the County’s fund balance.
Astorino’s 2012 Proposed Budget also included bonding for tax certioraris, but the BOL removed that funding plan from the budget, paid for the certioraris out of operating costs—and still delivered a balanced budget with no tax levy increase.
“The Administration just doesn’t seem to have a consistent long-range financial plan in place,” said Myers. “They ricochet from one idea to another, and sometimes their fiscal decisions contradict earlier decisions and statements they have made.”
Myers also pointed out that the BOL first suggested that municipalities short on cash reserves be able to bond for their own pension costs—an idea that Astorino initially disagreed with but is now quoted as saying he approves of.
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