Poughkeepsie… After two weeks of budget meetings where County Executive Steinhaus’ proposed 2009 county budget was described by Democrat legislators as “reprehensible” and “irresponsible,” the Budget, Finance & Personnel Committee, including these same legislators, voted to adopt the County Executive’s proposed budget without a single amendment or revision. Democrat Majority leaders ignored the fact the budget they voted to approve now has a deficit of at least $11.4 million because they have failed to act on several key policy decisions that were part of the County Executive’s proposed budget.
“Our 2009 budget proposal offered change and reform with significant cuts in government spending and said ‘NO’ to new higher property taxes,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “In order to do that we had to make some tough decisions – decisions that Democrat leaders have publicly rejected. Yet, today the budget was adopted in committee with no changes at all, creating a budget document that is currently out of balance since no action has been taken on any of the necessary policy decisions for implementation of the 2009 budget proposal. Once again, this proves the Democrat leadership in the County Legislature are all talk and no action.”
It is uncertain what the Democrat Majority plans to do to balance the 2009 budget. There are no publicly announced budget meetings scheduled to take place prior to the Budget Public Hearing scheduled for Thursday, December 4th at the Bardavon in the City of Poughkeepsie. The public hearing is intended to be an opportunity for residents to comment on the proposed budget with all of the changes and amendments made during the Legislature’s review process. This year it appears the public will not have the opportunity to comment on any changes made by the Democrat leadership before the final 2009 budget is adopted on Monday, December 8th.
At today’s committee meeting, Chairman Higgins spoke of a budget plan, although no plan has been put forth for public view. According to Republican Minority Leader Gary Cooper, the Democrats have informally discussed options to close the budget gap. Among the proposed options, Democrat Majority Leadership are advocating closing the Dutchess County Airport, and shutting down the Medical Examiners department. “We can only hope the Democrats are not serious about these ridiculous, impractical proposals. However, since we have seen no other proposals put forward for public discussion; we have to assume they are serious about these options. Unfortunately, it appears the public will not be given the opportunity to weigh in on these drastic and detrimental changes,” said Cooper.
“The hypocrisy of the Democrat Caucus makes a mockery of their often-used rhetoric about open and transparent government. They plan to hold a public hearing on a budget that they have no intention of adopting,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “To avoid public scrutiny, the Democrats have hidden their proposed list of budget cuts and will instead make all their cuts in secret behind closed doors, without input from residents. The Democrats’ own rhetoric demands they hold another public hearing once they finally reveal their budget plan, and it must be done before they vote to adopt the 2009 budget.”
“By not going public and disclosing their proposals until the full Board meeting on December 8th, the Democrats are knowingly making it too late for public taxpayers to speak out against a potentially huge property tax increase – what an insult to county taxpayers,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
Republican Legislator & Village of Fishkill Mayor James Miccio summed up the Legislature’s budget process when he said, “In my 30 years of government…. this is the most dysfunctional process I have ever been involved with.”