• Kaplowitz & Perez Make First Public Appearance Since Coup

  • JANUARY 30, 2013 | COUNTY GOV'T, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, GOVERNMENT REFORM, MANDATE RELIEF, TAX REFORM

  • 'Our Big Accomplishment Comes From Working Together, Not Being Antagonistic'

  • County Legislators Mike Kaplowitz (D-Somers) and Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers) met Tuesday with members of WCA's Call to Action Committee, our government watchdog group.  It was the first joint public appearance for the...



    ...Legislators since the December 7 coup where both broke party ranks to pass a compromise budget with Republicans that's widely viewed as saving Westchester's credit rating.  

    Kaplowitz and Perez told the WCA group that they thought compromise was warranted after a year of bickering between the Legislature and the County Executive's office.  

    "I'm a business person and I treid to move that model into politics. We'll continue on the that track. Listening to all will bring us to consensus," said Kaplowitz.

    Kaplowitz presented clarification to two myths going around:

    "First, it's untrue that we (the bi-partisan coalition) have shredded social services and there's no more safety net. Nothing could be further from the truth. We just shredded some social services spending, so childcare now costs families a dollar more a day. The current 2013 budget is 99% similar to the budget we had last year. Money for food, shelter, housing, childcare is still here. The County Executive compromised: so instead of cutting the Westchester Arts Council to $500,000, down from $1.5 million, we got them up to $750,000; child care went from 35% subsidy to 25%, up from 20%.

    "The second myth is that the 2013 budget was not fiscally responsible. This, too, is not true. Althought the budget wasn't as fiscally prudent as I would have liked -- there's still considerable borrowing (we have $13 million in certs to pay), we refrained from hitting the Reserve Fund in order to maintain our Triple A credit rating."

    Legislator Viriginia Perez says that some Democrats may be upset, but that she and Kaplowitz called it as they saw it.

    "No budget is perfect. We saved as many jobs as possible. But we had to maintain our credit rating, so there were some layoffs. As long as we're here, we will work together and with our colleagues."

    Several Call to Action Members expressed frustration with the State's Tier VI pension plan saying that it is wrong and should have been a defined pension plan. 

    "Some of the unions are not willing to contribute to their members healthcare costs, leaving taxpayers to foot the entire bill" notes Perez.  Perez says that the costs are so high, that when the unions do not compromise it results in budgetary pressures that lead to layoffs. Pension costs are now actually higher than medicaid costs.

    A big point made in the meeting by the Call to Action Members is that Westchester government's efforts in economic development have been anemic at best. There are capital projects that were approved that are not moving forward; Playland is in limbo. In a recession, infrastructure projects are the best thing government can do.

    "There seems to be a political haze. Now's the time to cut through that haze," said Kaplowitz. 

    Because of a recent court interpretation, it now seems likely that the county will pass the ability for there to be Local Development Corporations (LCDs)," added Kaplowitz.  

    But the votes are needed within the County Legislature, and these days, compromise is hard to come by.

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