Astorino threatens to veto Democrats' changes to budget
Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said he will veto Democrats' 2013 budget plan, contending it would reward unions and ruin the county's sterling credit rating.
"They have turned upside down this budget to the point where it is an unworkable budget if it were ever to get through," Astorino said during a news conference in the county offices in White Plains. "It would be complete chaos for next year. What they delivered today was completely irresponsible."
For the first time since Astorino assumed office in 2010, his veto threat has strength. In the past, when Democrats held a supermajority on the 17-member board, they could override Astorino's vetoes. This year, Republicans hold seven seats, meaning they can sustain the county executive's vetoes. That could force the Democrats to compromise.
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Astorino said the Democrats would jeopardize the count's triple-A credit rating by taking $11 million from the reserves and overstating golf course revenues and other fees. At the same time, they would restore 126 workers Astorino wants to lay off and cut funding in other departments, leading to more overtime costs.
Most of the workers who would keep their jobs belong to the Civil Service Employees Union, or CSEA. Astorino has been in negotiations with the union for weeks, trying to get its members to pay a portion of their health care costs, but the talks have been at an impasse. The Democrats' budget was crafted with the union in mind, he said.
"It would reward the CSEA for not settling," Astorino said.
Last month, pledging not to raise taxes or use reserve funds to bridge a projected $85 million budget gap, Astorino proposed a $1.7 billion county budget for 2013 that would result in laying off workers, incurring new debt and cutting spending to bring the county's finances into the black.
Now Democrats who hold a majority on the Board of Legislators are proposing changes to that draft budget.
Earlier this week, the Democrats suggested adding $31.6 million in expected revenue and $40.8 million in spending to Astorino's budget plan. On Thursday, they offered a series of deletions to keep spending in line with revenues. The charter mandates the board and county executive approve a balanced budget by Dec. 27.
"It's unfortunate that we always go towards this doomsday scenario instead of working through the process to try to achieve the goals that are set by all," Jenkins said. "If we have an opportunity to have a compromise in this scenario, we are all looking forward to working toward that."
Astorino was counting on at least two of the 10 Democrats on the board switching sides and joining their Republican colleagues to approve a budget he could accept. At least nine votes are necessary to adopt the budget.
Jenkins waved off that idea. "We will not have Democrats all over the map," he said.
Astorino now can either veto the entire budget as amended by Democrats or delete by line item portions where the Democrats have proposed additional spending. Under the county charter, the county executive cannot use the line-item veto on the board's deletions to his proposed budget.