After Long Day of Talks, County Legislators Pass 2012 Budget

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Legislator Bill Ryan (standing) speaks on the Board of Legislators' 2012 budget Friday morning.

After a day full of negotiations between the board’s Democrats, Republicans and County Executive Rob Astorino, the Westchester Board of Legislators passed its 2012 budget more than 12 hours after the vote was originally scheduled. Just before 2 a.m. Friday morning, the board voted 16-1 to pass a $1.698 billion budget that included no tax levy increase but restored 187 of 210 positions in which Astorino had proposed layoffs.

The Board of Legislators’ budget restores funding to the county’s health centers and probation department, moves the parent share of low-income daycare to 20 percent rather than the 35 percent proposed by Astorino and keeps open the county’s nature centers.

“In my heart, I think it’s a compromise. I don’t like certain parts of the compromise,” said Legislator José Alvarado (D-Yonkers). “I am not happy that in these economic times some people are going to get a pink slip.”

Republican Minority Leader James Maisano (R-New Rochelle) praised the deal as a bipartisan effort. Now, it will be up to Astorino to decide which budget modifications to veto. Last year, there were approximately 250 vetoes, nearly all of which were overridden by the legislators. Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett, who stuck around to watch the board vote on the budget, had positive comments about the board’s budget but indicated there were likely to be vetoes.

“I think it took leadership from the county executive and it took leadership from Mr. [Board Chairman Ken] Jenkins and his team to get this accomplished,” said Plunkett. “As a result of that effort we have a bipartisan budget, although there’s some issues in the budget that the county executive will be looking at very hard to veto.”

A vote was originally set for 1 p.m. Thursday, and at 11 a.m. Democratic lawmakers previewed their spending plan, calling it “heroic.” It soon became clear, though, that getting lawmakers from both parties as well as the county executive on the same page would be a tall task. Legislators spent the day Thursday in closed door talks with fellow legislators and with the Astorino administration, shuttling back and forth between the board’s eighth floor and the administration’s ninth floor.

Astorino is set to hold a press conference on the budget at 11 a.m. Friday. With 12 seats on the 17-person board, a unified Democratic party can override Astorino’s vetoes without needing any Republican support.

Martin Rogowsky (D-Harrison) was the only legislator to vote against the budget. Rogowsky said he voted against the budget because he was against the use of borrowing money for pension costs.


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