Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz commented following the Erie County Legislature voting 6 to 5 to approve the 2013 Erie County Budget as amended. Poloncarz expressed his disappointment in the passage of an unbalanced budget and four year plan and pledged to immediately begin to correct structural issues in hopes of avoiding an ECFSA imposed control period.
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.