The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

County Dems Harckham, Kaplowitz split over budget


By ANTHONY R. MANCINI

Westchester’s county executive signed the 2013 budget into law on Dec. 7 after Republicans in the county legislature teamed up with two Democrats to pass the budget bill, a controversial measure taken after the majority of the Democratic caucus left the legislative chamber. Two longtime Democratic legislators and erstwhile allies publicly split as Michael B. Kaplowitz of Somers voted to approve the budget, while Peter B. Harckham, D-Katonah, stormed out of the budget session before the signing of the budget.

“There are serious questions as to the process that was followed,” said Mr. Harckham, who represents Westchester’s District 2, which includes Bedford, Pound Ridge, Lewisboro, North Salem, Mount Kisco and parts of Somers. “We had adjourned the meeting and after we had left the chamber people remained behind to purportedly pass the so-called budget, so there are a lot of process issues that need to be sorted out.”

The $1.7 billion budget, which would not raise property taxes, passed 9-0 after eight Democrats left the chamber, including Mr. Harckham. The two Democrats who voted to help pass the bill are Mr. Kaplowitz and Virginia Perez of Yonkers.

Mr. Kaplowitz said the legislature did not break protocol when voting on the budget. He said before the legislature’s chairman, Kenneth W. Jenkins, D-Yonkers, moved to adjourn the meeting, there was a motion still standing, allowing the session to continue.

Despite a move from the bill’s opponents to move it back into committee, preventing a vote, Mr. Kaplowitz said this particular action, called Rule 9, was suspended through a vote, a common action for a budget bill.

“Rule 9 is always suspended because we don’t want any one chair in any one committee to stop the process and just send things back to committee,” he said.

Mr. Kaplowitz said after opposing Democrats left the legislative chamber, they shut off the lights in the chamber, turned off the microphones and began ringing an alarm in an attempt to disrupt action on the bill.

“They should’ve stayed. We would have had a vigorous debate on the budget,” said Mr. Kaplowitz. “When they picked up their marbles and went home, they really cheated the people and didn’t give them a chance for a good, honest discussion.”

Mr. Harckham said he and most of his Democratic colleagues had a problem with the version of the budget that passed, which was an attempt to compromise with an earlier proposal from county executive Robert P. Astorino. Mr. Harckham said the budget would slash over 100 public employees while funding around 100 positions that are currently vacant.

“Why they chose to keep 100 vacant personnel lines and fire 100 live bodies makes no sense,” he said.

Mr. Kaplowitz said the layoffs were an unfortunate result of a failure to negotiate a union employee health care contribution rate. County union employees currently do not contribute any payments to their health care plans.

“In tough times you don’t want to fire people,” Mr. Kaplowitz said. “These people have families, and I really feel badly about that.”

Mr. Harckham said lower-income families will be required to contribute 27 percent of costs for child care, higher than the 20 percent rate the Democrats had sought.

Mr. Harckham said that keeping child care contributions low saves taxpayer dollars in the long run because high day care costs force parents to quit their jobs to look after their children.

“It keeps low-income people who are working contributing to Westchester’s economy and paying taxes,” he said. “When the rate gets too high, they give up their jobs and go onto more costly assistance.”

Mr. Harckham also said the budget would take $8 million out of the county’s reserve funds and contributes $5 million to 37 positions he described as patronage within Mr. Astorino’s office.

“When you’re firing the professionals who make Westchester County function in order to keep political patronage, that’s just not good government,” he said. “It’s grossly unfair to the professionals who have been there a long time.”

Mr. Kaplowitz said the 27 percent child care rate with Mr. Astorino’s original proposal of a 35 percent contribution was a good compromise, and that he denies patronage within Mr. Astorino’s office. He said the Democratic majority also planned to make use of county reserve dollars, which Mr. Astorino said would have amounted to $11 million under the Democratic legislature’s proposal.

“We did not raid the county reserves, so we did not imperil our AAA bond rating, which the Democratic plan would have done,” Mr. Kaplowitz said.

Mr. Harckham criticized the amount of debt Westchester would take on due to this budget.

“The Republicans love to scream about our AAA credit rating and yet they’re borrowing $37 million for ongoing operating expenses,” he said.

Mr. Kaplowitz denies that he or Ms. Perez had any ulterior motives for siding with the Republicans.

“This is not a power play. We are not asking Peter or Ken to step down,” Mr. Kaplowitz said. “We’re not trying to become the new chair. We’re going to continue to work with them.

Mr. Harckham said he and the legislators will continue to work together regardless of the budget issue, however, he said that the bill still had three weeks to be passed and did not have to be rushed through so quickly.

“I have never seen anything like this in my five years plus on the board,” he said. “For nine legislators to try and take it upon themselves to ram something through like this is professionally and personally disappointing.”

Mr. Kaplowitz said the budget was passed in an appropriate timeline that would have given the legislators time to act if the county executive vetoed the bill. He said in the end, the eight Democrats’ unwillingness to negotiate further cost them the majority vote.

“It comes down to what your goals were. Virginia and I were realistic, while Pete and Ken were idealistic,” he said. “They violated the one rule in politics — you got to be able to count. At the end of the day, that’s the greatest mistake that they made.”


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December 14, 2012

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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