Westchester County officially has its 2013 budget, though the battle is only beginning.
On Friday, Republican legislators and two Democratic legislators unanimously passed a budget on Friday, 9-0, as eight Democratic legislators walked out of the proceeding. County Executive Rob Astorino signed the budget later in the afternoon.
During the meeting on Friday, Legislator Judy Myers (D-Mamaroneck) decided to recommit the budget back to the Budget and Appropriations Committee. Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) adjourned the meeting, and the Democrats — aside from Legislator Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers) and Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) — walked out.
The other legislators said that the adjournment was never voted on and that the legislators had suspended a motion to allow for recommitting items back to the committee. As legislators voted on the budget, the lights and microphones were turned off.
After the legislators walked out, the budget, which was put together by the GOP minority was approved. The $1.7 billion budget does not increase property taxes and restores 30 of the 126 positions that were laid off in the county executive’s budget.
The budget also increases funding for the arts, reduces parental contribution for subsidized child care and gives an additional $200,000 to the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“It was very silly of them to walk out,” Kaplowitz said. “They weren’t there to represent their constituency, which is sad. We acted responsibly; they were upset that the game was against them. This is a compromise budget that is fiscally prudent and socially responsible.”
Legislators and the county executive have been at odds over how to pay for tax certioraris, with Astorino and the GOP calling for the county to issue bonds, while legislators prefer to use the fund balance. Both sides are concerned about maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating.
After the budget vote, Jenkins and Majority Leader Peter Harckham harshly criticized Perez and Kaplowitz for their conduct in a statement.
“Today’s actions … were despicable and made a mockery of the legislative process,” Harckham and Jenkins said. “Sending the county executive’s proposed budget back to committee simply allows for more negotiation and deliberation.”
Astorino said he was appalled at the legislators’ actions and applauded Kaplowitz and Perez for not walking out.
“The will of the majority has to be respected. That’s the way our country operates,” Astorino said.